Three people were killed and at least eight others injured near Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, when a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up, the latest in a wave of apparent sectarian attacks that have gripped the country.
The bomber arrived on a motorcycle near a police checkpoint outside a Shia mosque in Rawalpindi late on Tuesday, police and eye witnesses said. A police inspector was among those killed in the blast.
Three other policemen sustained injuries, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), which also reported damages to several motorcycles and other vehicles parked at and around the blast site.
The news service described the explosion as “suicide blast”.
“Apparently it seems to be a suicide attack. We have found some body parts from the blast site. The Bomb Disposal Squad personnel also said it was suicidal. Among other evidence, we have found a blown up head, so it appears to be a suicide attack,” senior police official, Akhtar Shiite said.
According to APP, the injured were transferred to Benazir Bhutto Hospital.
“There were worshippers gathered inside and outside of the mosque. There are shops at the market outside the mosque and a barrier is placed behind that. This man (attacker) came running from the barrier.
“Boys stopped him, the police inspectors who are injured, tried to stop him. He slapped them and blew himself up,” Syed Ghulam Abbas Kazmi, an eye witness who helped get the injured to the hospital, said.
The incident came a day after a prominent Shia cleric was shot dead in Lahore in an apparent reprisal attack following the murder this month of a Sunni Muslim leader Maulana Shamsur Rehman.
On December 6, Rehman, the Punjab province leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a Sunni organisation, was shot dead as he left a mosque in Lahore.
Pakistan is grappling with a sectarian violence, adding to the list of challenges facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a time when security forces are already stretched fighting an escalating Taliban insurgency in the northwest of the country.
Shia Muslims make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million population. More than 800 Shia have been killed in attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of 2012, according to Human Rights Watch.