At least 18 people killed as blast hits religious gathering in central Punjab province, police say.
Islamabad – At least three people have been killed and several wounded after a Shia mosque was attacked in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in the latest act of violence to target the community.
Dr Ayesha Issani, the spokesperson at the PIMS hospital, where the injured are being treated, confirmed the attack to Al Jazeera and said that the wounded were in serious condition.
Both firing and an explosion were heard on Wednesday at the Qasr-e-Saqina mosque, located just off the main expressway connecting Islamabad to its twin city of Rawalpindi.
A witness who talked with state-run Pakistan television said he was outside the mosque when a man opened fire at guards and then tried to enter.
The assailant tried to blow himself up but his jacket malfunctioned and only partially exploded, said the witness, who was not identified.
“Our war is against the terrorists who are killing innocent Pakistanis. […] We cannot allow them to see us as weak in front of them,” Asad Umar, the local parliamentary representative from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party, said in a statement.
“Those who are killing Shias every day, targeting them, and those who are sitting with them and are campaigning with them in elections … are we all not implicated then in this?” Umar said, in an allusion to the close links in some areas between political parties and anti-Shia groups such as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
“The National Action Plan [on counterterrorism] has been made, and all the political parties have come together, military courts have been made and executions have started … now the nation wants to see results.”
This is the second attack on a Shia mosque this week, after an attack in Peshawar killed at least 20 people on Friday.
Threats against such mosques have increased in recent days, with Wednesday’s attack marking the fourth such incident since a school massacre in Peshawar in December.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting on the National Action Plan (NAP) in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province, where he expressed satisfaction with the authorities performance so far.
“The performance of the provincial governments with regard to NAP is quite satisfactory, however provinces should excel from each other in their fight against terrorism and extremism,” he said.
The NAP is a 20-point plan to tackle extremism and armed anti-state groups in Pakistan, developed after the December 16 attack on a Peshawar school that killed 141 people, the deadliest such attack in the country’s history.