Pakistan on edge after successive anti-Shiite attacks during Ashura


Islamabad (dpa) – Mobile phone and internet services were switched off in all major Pakistani cities Saturday after two deadly attacks in as many days linked to the Shiite festival of Ashura, officials said.

A suicide bomber targeted a Shiite procession in the town of Jacobabad in the southern province of Sindh on Friday, a day after another bomber attacked a mosque in the south-west. In all, 35 died in the two incidents.

An Interior Ministry official said that additional security measures would now be implemented for Ashura after intelligence reports showed further threats of attacks.

“Mobile phone and internet have been closed in all major cities and the places marked as sensitive and security officials in plain clothes deployed to keep eyes on suspects,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

About 200,000 security personnel have been deployed and walk-through gates, metal detectors, closed circuit televisions and drone cameras have been installed in the large eastern province of Punjab, police spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar said.

Other provinces have taken similar security measures, said the Interior Ministry official.

Ashura marks the end of 10 days of rituals during the Islamic month of Muharram, observed to mourn the death 1,400 years ago of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Mohammed.

Militants defied the security deployment when a suicide bomber targeted a Shiite procession on Friday evening, killing 20 people on the spot. Another four succumbed to their injuries during the night, said health officials citing police.

On Thursday, a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in the south-western province of Balochistan, killing 11, according to police.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group linked to al-Qaeda, claimed the bombing in Balochistan and is suspected of involvement in the second attack.

Shiites make up about 20 per cent of Sunni-dominated Pakistan, which has a population of more than 180 million. Extremist Sunni groups consider them heretics.