15 killed, 80 injured in suicide attacks in Lahore, Karachi

M Zulqernain

Lahore/Karachi, Jan 25 (PTI) Suicide bombers carriedout attacks targeting Shia Muslims in the Pakistani cities ofLahore and Karachi today, killing 15 people and injuringnearly 80 others in the latest series of terrorist strikesagainst religious minorities in the country.

In the first attack in the eastern city of Lahore, ateenage suicide bomber today blew himself up when he waschallenged by policemen guarding a Shia procession.

The attack occurred at Lahori Gate near Karbala GamayShah, a Shia ''imambargah'' or prayer hall.

Lahore Police chief Aslam Tareen said the bomber, whowas 14 or 15-year-old, detonated his explosive vest when hewas stopped for checking.

Besides the vest, the bomber was carrying explosivesin a bag, he said.

The face of the bomber, minus the skull, had beenfound by police, he said.

"The attacker detonated his explosive vest at thefirst layer of security, where policemen were checking people(joining the procession),� Superintendent of Police (Security)Faisal Rana told reporters.

Thirteen people, including a woman and fourpolicemen, were among the dead. Over 70 people were injured.

Zahid Pervez, the medical superintendent of MayoHospital, described the condition of 10 of the injured ascritical.

The second bomber struck a short while later,targeting a police van in the Malir area of Karachi.

Two policemen were killed and five others, includingthree policemen, injured in the attack.

The attacker, who was on a motorcycle, rammed into thepolice van shortly after two buses carrying Shia Muslimsreturning from a procession had passed the area.

Police officials said the bomber struck after the vanprevented him from hitting one of the buses.

Officials told the media they had found the head ofthe bomber and sent it for DNA and forensic tests.

In Lahore, police chief Aslam Tareen said authoritieshad received alerts of possible attacks on Shia processions.

He said the multi-layered security arrangement put inplace by police had prevented the bomber from reaching theprocession.

Search and sweep operations were being conducted inthe city to trace terror suspects, he said.

State-run Rescue 1122 spokesman Fahim Jehanzeb toldPTI that the blast in Lahore occurred minutes before the Shiaprocession reached the spot.

A suspect was arrested from the site of the blast,other officials said. .

Shia Muslims across Pakistan are observing the ''chehlum'' of Hazrat Imam Hussain today and a large processionthat originated from the old quarters of Lahore was toculminate at Karbala Gamay Shah in Bhatti Gate.

The attack occurred despite extensive securityarrangements put in place in major cities and towns to protectShia processions. About 6,000 security personnel were deployedto guard processions in Lahore alone.

An emergency was declared in hospitals across Lahoreand Karachi following the blasts.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister YousufRaza Gilani condemned the attacks.

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