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Eleven dead in Pakistan as KFC burned down after mosque blast
Updated: 2005-05-31 20:57

KARACHI - Six workers of the US fast food chain KFC died when a restaurant was torched by a mob protesting the suicide bombing of a mosque in the Pakistani city of Karachi that killed five others, police said.

Monday's attack on the minority Shiite mosque in a middle-class neighbourhood and the ensuing riots have triggered fears that a new wave of sectarian violence might spread across the volatile Islamic republic.

Four employees of the restaurant, whose outlets are often targeted during outbursts of anti-American anger in Pakistan, burned to death while another two froze to death after hiding in the walk-in cold storage, police said.

"It was very sad scene. When we found the bodies in the freezer one of them had a cellphone in his hand with a missed call from his wife," Karachi fire brigade chief Azam Ali told AFP on Tuesday.

The mob went on the rampage after three attackers believed to be from a militant Sunni Muslim organisation stormed the Shiite Madinat-ul-Ilm mosque in Karachi's Gulshan district during evening prayers late Monday.

One of the assailants died in a gunbattle with police who were standing guard at the door of the building. The other blew himself up and the third sustained a serious head injury, apparently in a fall, city police chief Tariq Jamil told AFP.

Two worshippers and a policeman also died in the attack, while 21 people were hospitalised, four of them in a critical condition.

Hospital officials said the surviving attacker had regained consciousness. "He identified himself as Jamil," senior police investigator Manzoor Mughal told AFP.

Mughal said the man said he was affiliated to the Sunni militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2001. But he said "normally these militants hide the actual facts and it takes time to verify their identity."

Police were guarding the room of the suspect but doctors would not allow them to interrogate him.

"The proper investigation would start when he is fully recovered," Mughal said.

The man may help police uncover possible links to a suicide bombing on Friday which killed 19 people, most of them Shiites, at a Muslim shrine in the capital Islamabad.

Security forces were placed on high alert following the Islamabad blast, but police were unable to stop the Shiite mob in Karachi, which also torched two gas stations and a number of vehicles in addition to the KFC outlet.

Police and firemen said they found two bodies lying on the ground when they opened the door of the gutted restaurant after family members informed the KFC management that the employees did not return home late into the night.

During the search police found two more bodies from the first floor while the bodies of two other employees were found frozen in the KFC cold storage, Jamil, the city police chief, told AFP.

Five of the victims were aged between 25 and 30 years while the sixth was a guard aged about 50, Jamil said.

Thousands of Shiite and majority Sunni Muslims have been killed in Pakistan in recent years, with attacks including bomb blasts, suicide bombings and targeted killings. Last year 160 people were killed.

Sectarian extremist groups are opposed to Musharraf for leading a crackdown on Islamic militancy and their associates from the Al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Security has been tightened in Karachi as funeral prayers of the blast victims were scheduled in the same mosque while separate burials of the arson victims were also expected later in the day.

Tension was already high in volatile Karachi after the abduction and murder of a local leader of the main fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami party in the city on Monday.

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