Suicide bombing at Pakistan mosque kills 22 (Fourth Lead)

April 5th, 2009 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 5 (DPA) At least 22 people were killed and dozens injured Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shia mosque in Pakistan’s Punjab province, government officials said.
The suicide blast took place at the main entrance of the mosque in Chakwal district, some 90 km south-west of capital Islamabad.

“At least 22 people are killed and more than 50 are injured, many of them critically,” said provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah.

The district police officer B.A. Nasir told Express television that the death toll could be as high as 35. Some of the critically wounded were being transferred to Rawalpindi.

More than 1,500 Shia Muslims were assembled for a traditional religious ceremony in the mosque when the suicide bomber struck. The death toll could be much higher had the attacker managed to enter the mosque, the police said.

The explosion also damaged half a dozen cars parked near the mosque gate.

“It was a horrible scene. The site was littered with human blood and flesh,” a provincial lawmaker from Chakwal, Iffat Liaquat Ali, said over phone after visiting the site.

Pakistan has a long history of sectarian attacks mostly against Shia Muslims by Sunni extremist groups, which have joined hands with Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants based in country’s lawless tribal region near Afghan border.

The Chakwal attack is believed to be part of what is being described by officials as a new wave of attacks by Taliban, who have threatened to step up strikes inside Pakistan till the government stops the US from carrying out drone attacks in tribal belt.

The Taliban accuse Islamabad, a key US ally in the international fight against terrorism, of providing assistance to US forces for these airstrikes.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber targeted paramilitary troops deployed in Islamabad’s upmarket neighbourhood where several embassies, UN offices and residences of foreign diplomats are located. Eight soldiers and a civilian died and 12 others were injured.

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