Blast targets bus in Karachi, 11 killed

KARACHI: A motorcycle rigged with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Shias in Karachi Friday, killing 11 people and wounding 40 in the second such attack in Pakistan’s financial capital in two months.

The attack, in a city largely isolated from bombings concentrated in northwest Pakistan but with a history of sectarian tensions and political violence, underscored the security challenges facing the country.

“Eleven people have been martyred and 40 injured. There are children and women among the killed and wounded,” Doctor Seemi Jamal, the chief of Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, told AFP.

The bus was carrying Shia Muslim mourners to participate in a religious procession to mark the end of the holy month of Muharram in Karachi, a city of 16 million people.

“The bus was carrying Shia mourners. It was full of people and a motorcycle rammed into the bus. The motorcycle was completely destroyed and the bus was heavily damaged,” police official Shahid Hasan told AFP.

City police chief Waseem Ahmad told reporters that the motorcycle was rigged with an improvised-explosive device (IED). It remained unclear whether the motorcycle was being driven by anyone when it struck the bus.

The attack happened on the bridge of the main Faisal highway in the centre of Karachi, shattering windows in nearby buildings, said an AFP reporter.

Ambulances raced through the streets as volunteers helped to evacuate the wounded and armed security forces patrolled the area, television footage showed.

On December 28, a massive bombing killed 43 people at a parade marking the holiest Shia day of Ashura earlier in the month of Muharram.

Pakistan’s feared Taliban network claimed responsibility for that attack, sparking riots that caused huge financial losses.

Security forces were on high alert in Karachi with a wave of political violence killing at least 37 activists from rival parties in the last five days, following 48 similar killings last month.

The Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which have a history of bitter relations, both claim their workers have been shot dead.

The two parties belong to the local governing coalition in southern province Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, and which is led by President Asif Ali Zardari’s main ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

MQM represents Muslims who migrated from India after independence and is Karachi’s dominant party. ANP represents an estimated two million Pashtuns who have migrated to Karachi from northwest Pakistan.

Pakistan has seen a recent decline in militant attacks, attributed both to the success of a US drone war and Pakistani offensives in the tribal belt shadowing the Afghan border where Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks are based.

Last month, 153 people were killed by militants in Pakistan — nearly half the 275 killed in October, according to an AFP tally.

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