Islamabad: A suicide bomber struck a night-time Shiite march in Pakistan, in the bloodiest attack of a day of violence that left at least 28 people dead as Islamic leaders gathered for a rare summit in Islamabad.
Police in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital said the attack on the procession of minority Shiite Muslims killed at least 16 people, after the suicide bomber blew himself up when he was stopped for a security check.
Police used lamps and torches to work through the night, bagging evidence at the scene after the Shiite procession as part of observations for Muharram was hit en route to a mosque. The holy month is a magnet for sectarian attacks.
As well as the 16 people killed, rescue service spokesman Waqas Rehman told AFP that another 32 people were wounded including nine children.
Rawalpindi is adjacent to Islamabad, where thousands of extra police and paramilitary forces have been mobilised for the Developing 8 (D8) summit starting later on Thursday.
Iran and Turkey are among the countries joining the summit of mainly Muslim nations which is meant to promote trade and investment. But Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza is set to loom large, even if a truce is now in effect.
The ceasefire was agreed in a deal between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas that was announced in Egypt on the eighth day of violence in and around Gaza that has killed at least 160 people.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi — who was thanked by the United States for helping to broker the Israel-Hamas deal — had been slated to join the Islamabad talks but state TV in Egypt said he would now stay home to monitor the truce.
As well as the hosts Pakistan, the D8 also comprises Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria — the only member which is not majority-Muslim. Its population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians.
Pakistan wants the summit to strengthen its international standing and help “remove misconceptions (about the country) created in a section of international media”, a government statement said in the build-up to the gathering.
In addition to the security deployment, construction work has been suspended around the diplomatic enclave to provide “God willing, foolproof security”, Islamabad police chief Bani Amin told the agency.
But Wednesday’s long day of militant violence was an unwelcome reminder that Pakistan remains in the grip of unrest largely orchestrated by homegrown Taliban extremists bitterly opposed to the country’s US-allied government.
In the southwestern city of Quetta, bombers hit an army vehicle escorting children home from school, killing four soldiers and a woman, police said.
More than 20 people were wounded when the bomb, planted on a motorcycle, was detonated by remote control, said city police chief Hamid Shakeel.
Shopkeeper Mohammad Talib said he was returning to his shop after prayers at a nearby mosque.
“Soon after, I heard a huge blast. There was dust and smoke. I saw an army vehicle in flames. Shards of glass were littered on the road. There was panic, people were screaming, others were fleeing the area,” he said.
Two people were killed in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi when a bomb-laden motorcycle collided with a rickshaw near a Shiite mosque, city police chief Iqbal Hussain told the agency.
In northwest Pakistan, four police died when gunmen ambushed a patrol in Bannu district, police official Nisar Ahmed Tanoli said. A roadside bomb elsewhere killed another police official.
Because of such violence in the years since the 11 September attacks of 2001, Pakistan has rarely had a chance to host international gatherings, and the government had hoped to use the D8 summit to present a different image. AFP