The death toll from a suicide bomb attack on a Sunni Muslim prayer meeting
rose on Wednesday to 57 in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, where
officials said they were on high alert for more violence.
A motor-cyclist rides past vehicles
set afire by angry mobs near the blast site in Karachi. Pakistani
authorities have placed army troops on alert for the funeral of a Sunni
Muslim leader who was among 57 people killed in the country's worst
bombing for nearly two decades. [AFP]
Tuesday's strike by two suspected suicide bombers was the worst ever on
Karachi, which has been plagued by sectarian violence and Islamist militant
organizations angered by President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led
war on terrorism.
"The death toll has now risen to 57, while there are also reports that some
people are still missing," Salahuddin Haider, spokesman of the provincial Sindh
"Our initial investigations suggest that there were at least two suicide
bombers involved in the attack. We have found the body parts, including the
heads, of the suspected attackers."
The attackers struck while worshippers from a Sunni Muslim organization,
Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat, had gathered for prayers at the end of a day that marked
the anniversary of Prophet Mohammad's birth.
Among the dead were several locally well-known leaders of Jamaat-e-Ahle
Sunnat, which has hundreds of thousands of followers among Pakistan's dominant
Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims, raising fears of a violent backlash.
Karachi has been one of the main battlegrounds for sectarian violence between
Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority and minority Shi'ite Muslims over the past two
"It was a very well-planned and co-ordinated attack, and apparently it seems
that the attackers were very well-trained," said Haider, adding that they struck
in a way to inflict maximum damage.
The Sindh government announced a three-day mourning period, and closed down
all educational institutions.
Officials said the government had asked foreign franchises such as the KFC
and McDonald's fast food outlets to remain closed as they are often targeted at
The provincial government has also asked the army stationed in the city to be
ready to deploy troops at short notice, according to military officials.
The funeral prayers of two of the victims were held after morning prayers,
and more were scheduled for later in the day. No violence was reported during
these ceremonies, but the funerals of the Sunni group's leaders were still to be