Suicide bomber kills 32 in Pakistan's northwest
A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 today in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered yesterday in Dera Ismail Khan.
"The funeral procession accompanying the body of Shia elder, Sher Zaman killed yesterday by unknown gunmen, was moving towards the graveyard when it reached near Sobara hotel a powerful explosion took place," a Pakistani official told reporters.
The suicide attack sparked violent riots in the district in northwest Pakistan. Enraged protesters attacked police stations, looted shops, and fired weapons in the air. The Army has been called in to restore order and imposed a curfew. Soldiers have been issued orders to shoot on sight anyone violating the curfew.
Dera Ismail Khan has been the scene of several major attacks on minority Shia this past year.
The attacks are carried out by anti-Shia terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. These groups have merged with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and are harbored by the Taliban in the tribal areas. Dera Ismail Khan borders South Waziristan, the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. These groups are known to base in South Waziristan.
The major attack occurred on Jan. 4 when two bombs were detonated outside of a college in the main town. Ten Pakistanis were killed and more than 25 were wounded.
A Nov. 21 attack nearly mirrored today's strike. A car bomb was detonated during a funeral procession for a murdered Shia cleric. Ten were killed and scores were wounded. On Aug. 19, a suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 by detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.
The anti-Shia attacks in the region have expanded in neighboring Punjab province. On Feb. 5, more than 30 Shia Pakistani worshipers were killed and more than 50 wounded in a devastating suicide attack outside of a mosque in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, which borders Dera Ismail Khan.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks in the Punjab districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Mianwali over the past several weeks. The attacks have prompted the Punjab provincial government to consider closing down its borders with the two provinces.
Fear of the rising violence led the Punjab government to order the closure of two facilities used by truckers transporting supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"This is the policy of the Punjab government, that we have to minimize the risks of attacks, as these unguarded stopovers can be a big target for terrorists," the Mianwali district police chief told Dawn.