A roadside bomb targeting a mourning procession killed at least 10 people in a southern district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday while security forces remain on high alert across the country over fears of large-scale sectarian attacks.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the infamous group blamed for most violence in the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place at 9:45am on the outskirts of Dera Ismael Khan city, according to AFP.
The blast was the latest in a series of attacks on Muharram gatherings across the country.
At least 22 mourners were also wounded – some of them critically – by the remote-controlled bomb in the Toi Fazal area of DI Khan. The bomb was set off by a television remote control device because cell phones were not operational.
At least eight people were killed and two dozen wounded in the blast, an official of the Cantt police station said. The Express Tribune correspondent, however, reported that two of the injured expired at Multan’s Nishtar Hospital.
The blast followed a deadly suicide attack – also claimed by the TTP – that killed 24 people at a mourning procession in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
Authorities subsequently ordered heightened security, with cellular services suspended in major cities. But that did not prevent Saturday’s attack.
According to the police official, the bomb was planted in a garbage dump and it was set off as the mourning procession walked past.
“It was a homemade bomb concealed in a pressure cooker and planted in the garbage,” an explosives expert told The Express Tribune, adding that the device weighed 10 kilograms. Ball bearings were also used in the bomb to maximise casualties, he added.
City police chief Khalid Suhail said the dead included four children, aged between 6 and 11 years. “They were young boys,” he said, adding that two of them were brothers.
The explosion was so powerful that it hurled a young boy onto a rooftop from a street, where a man later carried away half of his body.
DIG Police Qazi Jamilur Rehman told reporters that security was stepped up following the blast, adding that 10 Muharram processions would go through their designated routes according to the schedule.
Soon after the blast, the police launched a search operation and detained a suspected person for questioning.
Army contingents were deployed on different procession routes throughout the day while strict security measures were put in place on all entry and exit points of the D I Khan, which has been a sectarian hotbed. The blast whipped up fear among residents of the city who were confined in their homes.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the bombing in a phone call to AFP. “We carried out the attack against the Shia community,” the group’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said. “The government can make whatever security arrangements it wants but it cannot stop our attacks.”
The Taliban had dispatched more than 20 suicide bombers across the country for attacks on the Shia community, he said.
Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour swung into action and suspended Tehsil Municipal Officer Umer Khan Kundi and held the district municipal officials responsible for the blast.
He told journalists that the provincial government had provided Rs5 million to the district administration for clearing all procession routes. “If the garbage was cleared on time by the municipal official, the incident could have been averted,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2012.