Suicide blasts at Sufi shrine in Pakistan kill 41

By Asim Tanveer

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) – Two Taliban suicide bombers caused carnage on Sunday at a Sufi shrine in eastern Pakistan, killing at least 41 people and wounding scores in the latest bloody attack on minority religious groups.

“These were suicide bombings and we arrested an attacker who could not completely detonate the explosives on his body. He was wounded,” Zahid Ali, a police officer in Dera Ghazi Khan city where the blasts took place, told Reuters by telephone.

Police said some 65 people were wounded. They said the attackers struck during an annual ceremony for the Sufi saint to whom the shrine is dedicated.

“I was just a few yards away from the place where the blast happened,” said witness Faisal Iqbal.

“People started running outside the shrine. Women and children were crying and screaming. It was like hell.”

Taliban militants, who follow an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, condemn other interpretations of Islam as heretical and have launched repeated attacks on the country’s Shi’ite, Sufi and Christian minorities. They claimed responsibility for Sunday’s suicide bombings.

“Our men carried out these attacks and we will carry out more in retaliation for government operations against our people in the northwest,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Last October, a bomb blast at a Sufi shrine in another eastern city, Pak Pattan, killed six people. In July, 42 people were killed in a bomb attack in Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine, in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province.

Many analysts say the attacks are motivated by more than religious hatred, and that militant groups hope by inflaming sectarian tensions they can further destabilise Pakistan and weaken the government’s tenuous grip on the country.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider and Mubasher Bokhari, writing by Andrew Marshall, editing by Daniel Magnowski)

Suicide blasts at Sufi shrine in Pakistan kill 41