7 killed in blast near Shia procession in Pakistan

Seven persons were killed and 18 injured when a Shia procession was targeted with a roadside bomb in Pakistan's restive northwest today, the latest in a string of attacks against the minority community during the Islamic month of Muharram.

The bomb, which was hidden in a mound of garbage, went off as a procession from an imambargah on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan was on its way to the main procession in the city, witnesses and police officials said. Seven persons, including four children, were killed by the powerful blast. Two children and a policeman were among the injured, who were taken to a nearby hospital.

Police officials said the bomb contained an estimated 10 kg of explosives and ball bearings. Footage on television showed the walls of several houses had been pitted by the ball bearings. Soon after the blast, authorities further beefed up security in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The army was called out in the district. Officials said over 4,000 security personnel had been deployed in the area.

The attack occurred despite extensive security arrangements put in place by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, including the suspension of mobile phone services in nearly 50 cities and towns, including Karachi, Lahore and Quetta, and a ban on pillion riding in dozens of places.

In the southwestern city of Quetta, authorities imposed a complete ban on the riding of motorcycles. In Islamabad, authorities used helicopters to mount surveillance of Shia processions.

Despite widespread criticism from the public, Interior Minister Malik yesterday directed authorities to suspend mobile phone services in Karachi and Quetta and parts of Islamabad, saying mobile SIMs had been used to trigger explosives in "90 per cent" of recent terror attacks. Mobile and wireless phone services were suspended in 49 cities today. The suspension will continue till Ashura, which falls on Sunday.

Shias organise huge processions on Ashura to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in 680 AD. The Taliban have carried out attacks despite the security arrangements.

On Thursday, 23 people were killed and more than 60 injured when a suicide attacker targeted a Shia procession in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. A suicide bomber blew himself up close to a Shia prayer hall at Lakki Marwat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa last night, injuring two persons.

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