Funerals have taken place in southern Pakistan for the victims of a suicide attack on a Shia mosque during Friday prayers which police say killed at least 60 people, reports AFP. Dozens were also wounded in the attack in Sindh province’s Shikarpur district, making it one of the worst sectarian attacks in Pakistan in recent years. Sunni militants linked to the Taliban said they carried out the attack.
An official day of mourning has been declared across Sindh. Some Shia groups burned tyres and blocked roads during protest rallies in Shikarpur town – where the attack took place. Protests also took place in other cities. Shias are demanding the arrest of those who orchestrated the attack and better protection for their places of worship.
Police say that the bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body in the centre of the mosque. Four children were reported to be among the dead. “The bomber selected a place in the mosque that would cause huge destruction,” Raja Umar Khitab, a police official in Sindh’s counter-terror department, told the AFP news agency.
Mr Khitab said the bomb contained steel pellets, ball bearings and shrapnel to maximise the damage. Pakistan has over the past decade experienced an increasing number of sectarian attacks, most carried out by hard line Sunni Muslim groups against the minority Shia community, who comprise about 20% of the population. The Jundallah militant group said it had carried out the attack. The group has been linked to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and announced allegiance to Islamic State last year.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said that those responsible would be tried by a military court, where their cases would be dealt with more quickly. The attack came as Mr Sharif visited the city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that attacks on Shia targets have been fairly common in Karachi, on the coast, but are relatively new in the interior of Sindh province, where the influence of a more tolerant Sufi Islamic tradition is more widespread.