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Pakistan boosts security after suicide bomber attacks near Shiite mosque

Pakistan boosts security after suicide bomber attacks near Shiite mosque

Pakistani army troops were put on alert to guard against sectarian violence after a suicide bomber killed 15 people in an attack on a Shiite mosque in the northwest city of Peshawar, officials said.
Soldiers were ready to be deployed to any of 40 districts considered potential flashpoints for violence during the festival of Ashoura, observed by Pakistan's minority Shiite Muslim sect, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told The Associated Press.
Sharp shooters from the police and paramilitary troops also have been stationed around Shiite mosques to prevent further violence, he said.
Meanwhile, the chief minister of North West Frontier Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, called for calm Sunday between Shiites and the majority Sunnis.
Security was also stepped up Sunday in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi after an intelligence report indicated the threat of a car bombing, police said.
No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombing in downtown Peshawar that also killed the city's police chief and wounded more than 30 other people, and came as Pakistan's Shiites began celebrating their most important annual festival, Ashoura, which has often been a target of anti-Shiite violence.
Most Sunnis and Shiites coexist peacefully in Pakistan, but militant groups on both sides are blamed for sectarian attacks that claim scores of lives every year.
Heavily armed police and security forces in pickup trucks and armored personnel carriers patrolled streets in Shiite-dominated areas in Peshawar on Sunday, but no violence was reported.
In Karachi, police and troops from the paramilitary Rangers force were ordered to check all vehicles entering the city for explosives, said Jehangir Mirza, chief of police for Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital.
Mirza said that police received an intelligence report early Sunday indicating that an explosives-laden car was heading to Karachi from Dera Ismail Khan, a city in the northwest, near the South Waziristan tribal region where a militant leader earlier this month warned of attacks against the government.
Saturday's blast went off in a bazaar about 200 meters (yards) from a mosque that was the starting point for the Shiite procession, which was canceled.
Most of the victims were police and municipal officials who were clearing the route for the procession, police said.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion will likely fall on Sunni extremists, and an Islamabad-based analyst said that sectarian violence in Iraq was likely to add to Sunni-Shiite tension in Pakistan.
The Sunni-Shiite schism over who was the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century. Shiites represent about 20 percent of Pakistan's Muslims, and Sunnis about 80 percent.
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Associated Press writers Zarar Khan and Sadaqat Jan contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-08 09:51 GMT+08:00