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Pakistan police detain 12 over suicide blast

Written by: Staff
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KARACHI, Apr 16 (Reuters) Pakistani police have detained at least a dozen suspected Islamic militants in connection with a suicide bombing at a Muslim prayer meeting last week that killed 57 people, a senior police official said today.

No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack in Karachi, where a suicide bomber targeted a congregation of more than 15,000 Sunni Muslims, Pakistan's majority sect, celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammad at a city park.

''We are questioning them and I am hopeful that we are close to a breakthrough,'' Jahangir Mirza, chief of police in southern Sindh province, told a news conference.

''We have extended our investigation to other provinces after getting some leads from the detained people,'' he said.

He declined to give details of those detained or any affiliations with militant groups they might have.

''We are investigating jihadis because they were involved in such attacks in the past, but we are also looking into other possibilities,'' Mirza said, referring to militant holy fighters.

The attack was the worst ever in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital. Among the dead were several leaders of the Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat group, which draws its support from Pakistan's dominant Barelvi sect of Sunni Muslims.

Mirza said investigators still had to narrow a list of suspects that included militants from sectarian, separatist and ethnic groups, as well as al Qaeda-linked Islamists.

Militants, angered by President Pervez Musharraf's support for the US-led war on terrorism, have used suicide bombers in attempts to kill both the president and his prime minister.

Karachi has a history of violence between Sunni militant groups and members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority, but there is little friction between Shi'ites and Barelvis.

The Barelvis have been targeted before by militants from the more austere Deobandi Sunni sect, which disapproves of the Barelvis' liberal interpretation of Islam.

REUTERS SI KN1830

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