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Car bomb kills 37 at Pakistan rally
Updated: 2004-10-07 11:32

A suicide car bomb exploded in central Pakistan, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 50 at a rally for an assassinated militant religious leader early on Thursday, police said.

The explosion tore the car to pieces, Sikander Hayat, district police officer of Multan city, told reporters.

"Unfortunately, despite our security arrangements, this suicide attack took place," Hayat said, adding that because the car had driven into the crowd before exploding it was believed a suicide bomber was at the wheel.

"The moment people came out of the ground, a car came and hit them exploding into pieces," said Hayat. He said there were two bomb explosions within an interval of 20 seconds.

The rally to mark the first anniversary of the shooting of extremist Sunni religious leader Azam Tariq was dispersing in the early hours of Thursday in the city of Multan when the powerful bomb exploded, police said.

"So far we know 37 people have been killed and 52 wounded," said Muhammad Yusuf, an assistant superintendent of police in Multan.

Large patches of blood stained the ground and pieces of flesh lay scattered around. Nearby houses were damaged.

"It was dark and people were screaming for help. It was utter chaos," said one witness to the blast in the Rasheedabad area of Multan, some 425 km (250 miles) southwest of the capital Islamabad.

"A car hit the people coming out of the rally and exploded, tearing people into pieces," said another witness.

Latest Sectarian Violence

Tariq's militant Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) (Soldiers of Mohammad's Companions) group was one of seven Islamic militant groups outlawed by President Pervez Musharraf -- five of them in a crackdown on religious violence -- in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Pakistan has been racked by sectarian violence in recent years, the most recent when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a mosque of the minority Shi'ite Muslim sect in the eastern city of Sialkot on Oct. 2, killing 30 people.

Hundreds of people had been attending the rally for Tariq.

Tariq, a Sunni Muslim militant leader and member of parliament, was among five people killed in an attack on his car on Oct. 6 last year on the outskirts of Islamabad.

His SSP has been accused of involvement in a wave of violence between Pakistan's dominant Sunni Muslims and Shi'ites, who account for about 15 percent of the 150 million population.

Like other such organizations, Sipah-e-Sahaba now officially works under a new name.

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