Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - At least 23 dead and about 60 wounded in an attack that targeted a procession in the city of Rawalpindi, Punjab; yesterday evening the suicide bomber targeted a group of Shiite Muslims directed towards the local mosque near the center. Also yesterday, the extremists launched another attack in the southern city of Karachi, killing two people (one bomb went off near another Shiite mosque), while five were killed in Quetta, where a bomb exploded. The series of attacks that has struck Pakistan comes amid celebrations for the holy month of Muharram-ul-Haram and on the eve of the feast of Ashura (the 10th day of the month of Muharram, which falls on November 24), which has particular significance for the Shia minority, which commemorates the death of Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, one of the pillars of the Shiite faith.
At first there appeared to be only ten victims of the attack in Rawalpindi, not far from the capital Islamabad. Police spokesman Deeba Shehnaz said that during the night "several people" have died in the hospital due to severe injuries.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out by a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a checkpoint, set up by agents to ensure the safety of the Shiite pilgrims. The extremist leader - and spokesman of the movement - Ehsanullah Ehsan, contacted by AFP, said that members of the Muslim minority had been struck - the country has a large majority Sunni Muslim, ed - because they were "engaged in defiling the Prophet."
In recent months, the attacks carried out by fundamentalist Sunnis against Shiites have grown exponentially. Karachi, in particular, is the scene of a long campaign of ethnic and sectarian violence that has ravaged the city and left hundreds dead. The explosion of a second bomb caused injuries to seven people, but did not lead to further casualties.
Also yesterday, a remote-controlled bomb exploded in Quetta, near a vehicle of the security forces who were escorting a bus carrying a group of children returning from school. Of the five victims, three were soldiers and two civilians; at least thirty persons were injured, some seriously.