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Blast at Shia procession claims 20 lives

The explosion occurred in Khanpur town shortly after a `Chehlum` procession left a Shi’ite `imambarah`.



Lahore: At least eight people were feared killed when a blast ripped through a Shi’ite procession in Pakistan`s Punjab province on Sunday, media reports said.

The explosion occurred in Khanpur town shortly after a `Chehlum` procession left a Shi’ite `imambarah` or prayer hall this afternoon.

Witnesses and reporters at the site said they had seen at least eight bodies. About a dozen people were also injured in the incident, according to reports by TV news channels.
Lahore: A powerful blast ripped through a
Shia procession in Pakistan`s Punjab province on Sunday, killing
at least 20 devotees and injuring more than 30 others,
witnesses said.

The explosion targeted the procession marking the
`Chehlum` of Prophet Mohammad`s grandson Hazrat Imam Husain in
Khanpur, 350 km from Lahore, this afternoon.

Witnesses said people ran helter-skelter when the blast
went off as the procession was making its way to the Darbar
Husain `imambargah` or prayer hall in the centre of the town.

A journalist at the site of the blast said that he had
seen 15 bodies being brought to a hospital.

Officials said another five persons succumbed to their
injuries at the same hospital.

Over 30 injured people were taken to hospitals in Khanpur
and nearby Rahim Yar Khan, officials said.

"I was present some 300 metres from the site of explosion,
which appeared to have been caused by a planted device," a
witness named Abbas Raza said.

The impact of the blast was so powerful that he was thrown
to the ground and could not recover his senses for several
minutes, he said.

"Several people were lying in a pool of blood," Raza said.

Local residents took the injured to a nearby hospital
before rescue teams reached the site, he said.

Geo News channel beamed dramatic footage that showed the
blast going off as the procession made its way along a narrow
street with residential buildings on both sides.

Men, women and children ran in panic as the explosion
threw up a dense cloud of dust.

Members of the procession were seen crying and shouting
slogans against the police and attackers after the blast.

An angry crowd staged a protest outside the main police
station in Khanpur. Police used teargas to disperse the
protestors.

Hospital officials said many of the injured were hit by
pellets. They also had injuries usually associated with bomb
blasts, the officials said.

District police chief Sohail Zafar claimed only 13 people
had died in the incident.

He did not rule out the possibility that a planted
explosive device was used in the attack.

Earlier, regional police chief Zahir Abid Qadri had
claimed that an `alam` or flag carried by the procession had
touched overhead electric wires, causing a transformer to
explode.

Tension between Shias and activists of the radical group
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have mounted
since LeJ chief Ishaq Malik was set free from prison last
year.
"The involvement of the SSP or LeJ in today`s incident
cannot be ruled out," said a security official who did not
want to be named.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah ordered an inquiry into
the incident. He said all law enforcement agencies had been
asked to further tighten security.

The `Chehllum` or the 40th day from Muharram was observed
across Pakistan today.

Authorities put in place strict security arrangements as
Shia processions have been attacked on this day in past years.

PTI

From Zee News

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