At least 23 people were killed in a suicide attack on a Muharram procession in Rawalpindi close to midnight on Wednesday; making it a day when terrorists struck – albeit, with lesser casualties – in all four provinces of the country. Together, the four blasts consumed 28 lives in 12 hours; raising fears of more trouble over the weekend during the penultimate and last day of Muharram.
Two of the attacks – the one in Rawalpindi and Karachi – were clearly sectarian in nature as they targeted the Shia community when they gathered in or near Imambargahs. The midnight strike was the deadliest; killing 23 and injuring 62. In this attack, a suicide bomber detonated himself when he was stopped by security personnel from breaking through the cordon to join a Muharram procession.
Earlier in the evening, two people were killed and several injured in two blasts near an Imambargah in Karachi’s Orangi Town. The second blast occurred at the same place as the first; resulting in injuries to some journalists who had rushed to the spot to cover the first explosion. These attacks on Muharram processions have shaken the Shia community enough for their leaders to demand that the Army be called in on the 9th and 10th Muharram to handle the security.
Besides these two attacks on the Shia community, Wednesday saw a bomb attack in the Balochistan capital of Quetta in which three soldiers and two civilians were killed. And, in Bannu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, three security personnel were injured in an ambush by terrorists.
On Thursday, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Shia community in Rawalpindi and Karachi and warned of more such strikes over the next few days. This has heightened security concerns for the rest of the Muharram mourning period. And, in Islamabad, an added concern is the security of the dignitaries – including four presidents and one premier -- who have converged here to attend the D-8 conference.