Pakistani police say five dead, more than a dozen injured

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A suicide bomber blew himself up during evening prayers at a Shiite mosque Monday, killing one worshipper and wounding 20. The bomber slipped into the mosque during a gunbattle with police that left another attacker and two officers dead.

A crowd outraged by the attack went on a rampage afterward in this southern city, burning cars and shops nearby. Eight people were injured.

The attack occurred at the Madinatul Ilm Imambargah in eastern Karachi, said Asif Ijaz, a Karachi police official. Three attackers stole an automatic weapon from a police guard outside the mosque and shot him to death, Ijaz said.

Other policemen opened fire, killing one of the attackers and wounding another, and an officer also was killed, he said.

But the third attacker managed to get inside the mosque and detonated a bomb strapped to his body, Ijaz said. One worshipper died and four were seriously injured, while 16 others were treated for lesser wounds, said Zafar Hussain, an administrator of the mosque.

"It appeared to be a low-intensity bomb because it did not cause major damage," said Mushtaq Shah, chief of police operations in Karachi.

About 1,000 Shiites, many beating their chests in mourning, burned about a dozen vehicles, a restaurant, two gas stations and eight shops near the mosque, Ijaz said. Two electricity transformers were also set on fire, plunging the neighborhood into darkness.

Rauf Siddiqi, home minister of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, condemned the bombing and said security had been put on "high alert."

"These incidents are happening one after the other. We are trying to find a link between them," he told the private Geo television station. "This is a criminal and merciless attack."

The attack came three days after a suspected suicide bomber attacked a Shiite religious gathering during a festival at a shrine near Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, killing about 20 people and injuring dozens.

Political and sectarian violence between radical groups within the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims is common in Karachi.

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