Three bombs ripped through a Shia Muslim religious procession in Lahore on Wednesday,killing 25 people and wounding about 150 others,officials said.
The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shias they consider infidels. Allied with al-Qaeda and the Taliban,the bombers are also seeking to destabilise Pakistans US-backed government.
The blasts were the first major attacks since Pakistan was hit by devastating floods more than a month ago. The bombs exploded at three separate sites Wednesday evening as 35,000 Shias marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the Caliph Ali,one of Shia Islams most respected holy men.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts in a statement and said the attackers would not escape justice. After the blasts,the marchers erupted in fury,setting fire to a police station,another police facility,two police cars and three motorcycles,said Zulfiqar Hameed,a senior police officer. The police lobbed tear gas canisters at the crowd and fired shots in the air to disperse the assailants,he said.
The first blast was a time bomb that exploded in the street near a well-known Shia building,Hameed said. Footage of that explosion shown on Geo television showed a small blast erupting amid a crowd of people on the street followed by a large plume of smoke. Hundreds of people fled from the blast,while others rushed to the area to carry the wounded to safety.
Minutes later,with the streets in chaos,a male suicide bomber who appeared about 18-years-old tried to force his way into an area where food was being prepared for the marchers to break the traditional Ramadan fast and exploded,Hameed said. Soon after,another suicide bomber detonated himself at an intersection near the end of the procession.
The blasts killed 25 people and wounded about 150 others,said Sajjad Bhutta,a top local government official. Hours earlier,three people were wounded in a shooting near a similar Shia procession in Karachi,but senior police officer Iqbal Mahmood said the incident did not target the march.