| Pakistani worshippers and police officers walk through the wreckage inside the Shia mosque in Karachi. (AFP)
Karachi, May 7 (Reuters): A suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb in a crowded Shia mosque in the business district of the Pakistani city of Karachi today, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 125, police said.
The mosque was packed for Friday afternoon prayers when it was shattered by the fourth and worst bomb attack in five days in Pakistan, a frontline state in the US-led war on terror.
President Pervez Musharraf called the attack a “heinous act of terrorism” and ordered an immediate inquiry.
The mosque was badly damaged. Blood stained the floor and walls and pieces of flesh were scattered around.
It was just the latest attack on a Shia mosque in Pakistan, which has been racked for decades by violence between the minority Islamic sect and militants in the Sunni majority.
Angry Shias went on a rampage in central Karachi, pelting cars and shops with stones and setting fire to a state-run petrol station, several vehicles, a building and a police post near the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Karachi police chief Tariq Jameel said 15 people were killed in the mosque bombing. Officials said another 125 were wounded.
“It appears to be a suicide attack,” said provincial security adviser Aftab Sheikh. “The explosives were attached to the body of the bomber who was apparently in the third row of worshippers.”
Worshipper Ali Abbas, his clothes smeared with blood, said he was in the third row when the bomb exploded and something hit him hard on the back.
“It was part of a body.” he said. “There was chaos. All of us ran outside, jumping over the injured and human remains.”
Rohena Hasan, a doctor at the state-run Civil Hospital said more than 20 people were in serious condition.
Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali vowed strict punishment of the perpetrators. “Those who committed this cold-blooded murder cannot be termed Muslims as Islam shuns violence,” the official APP news agency quoted him as saying.
Shias demanded protection for their community.
“We are at the mercy of terrorists who are getting bolder because they are not being punished,” said Shia cleric Hasan Turabi. “Now we have to defend ourselves.”
The mosque is inside the compound of a historic school, the Sindh Madarsatul Islam (Sindh School of Islam), where Jinnah received his early education.
More than 125 people have died in sectarian violence in Pakistan in less than a year, most of them Shias.
In March, 44 people were killed and 150 wounded in an attack on a Shia mosque in the southwestern city of Quetta that was blamed on Sunni militants.
Earlier today, three people were wounded in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, when a small bomb exploded opposite a hotel due to host a weekend investment conference.
Jamali had been expected at the city’s Serena Hotel tomorrow to chair the meeting. However, he cancelled his plans to attend before the blast due to commitments in Islamabad, said information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Police said the blast was caused by a small time-bomb attached to a bicycle. Baluchistan’s chief minister, Jam Mir Mohammad Yusuf, called it an attempt to sabotage the meeting.