Six die and 90 wounded as Taliban bombs religious procession

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At least six people have been killed and 90 others wounded after a bombing at a Shiite religious procession in north-western Pakistan yesterday which the Taliban has claimed responsibility for.

About 30 people have now died in five attacks on Shiites claimed by the Pakistani Taliban over the past five days while about 100 were wounded in the run-up to the Ashoura holiday, which commemorates the 7th-century death of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

The schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims dates back to that time.

Sunday’s explosion went off as hundreds of Shiites were passing through the main intersection of the city of Dera Ismail Khan, area police official Abdul Sattar said.

An initial investigation suggested a bomb was planted near a shop along the procession route, he added.

Several of the injured are in a serious condition, according to hospital official Doctor Faridullah Mahsud, who added that three members of a paramilitary unit providing security were among the injured. Dr Mahsud confirmed the five deaths.

The Pakistani Taliban, a Sunni extremist group, frequently attacks Shiites, who they consider heretics.

Ashoura ceremonies are prime targets since they draw large crowds that march in processions to mourn the martyred Imam Hussein.

Qais Abbas, a Shiite survivor, said the procession was in the Chogla area of the city when the bomb went off.

One of his relatives was in a critical condition, he said, but he and others were moving the wounded to other hospitals that were better equipped. “Here, we are not getting proper care for them, there are not enough doctors or medicines,” he said.

The same city was hit by a similar bombing on Saturday, which killed seven and injured 30.

On Wednesday night, a Taliban suicide bomber struck at a Shiite Muslim procession in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad, killing 17 people.

Also on Wednesday, the Taliban set off two bombs outside a Shiite mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing one person and wounding 15 others.

Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for all the attacks, with spokesman Ehasanullah Ehsan saying by telephone that the group would not relent and “looks forward to more ahead”.

Authorities have deployed thousands of additional police across the country to beef up security for the holy day. Mobile phone service has been shut down in all the major cities to prevent such bombings, which officials say often use cellular phones as remote detonators.