Increased patrols in Pakistan’s Karachi to prevent further violence in after shrine attack

By Ashraf Khan, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Security raised after Pakistan Sufi shrine attack

KARACHI, Pakistan — The streets of Pakistan’s largest city were mostly quiet Friday as police stepped up patrols to prevent more violence after twin suicide attacks at a Sufi shrine sparked angry mobs to rampage through the southern Pakistani city.

Eight people were killed and 65 injured in the bombings Thursday evening at the most beloved Sufi shrine in Karachi. At least two buses were torched by mobs who also fired weapons into the air into the night. A bus also was set on fire Friday on a major road.

Pakistan is 95 percent Muslim, and the majority practice Sufi-influenced Islam, whose more mystical practices are rejected by the Taliban and allied Islamic extremists — making Sufi sites a frequent target of militants.

A suicide attack in July killed 47 people at the nation’s most revered Sufi shrine, Data Darbar in the eastern city of Lahore. That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians.

After Thursday’s attack, condemnations came from across Pakistan, including from President Asif Ali Zardari, who was in Karachi at the time, and from the U.S. Embassy.

“We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land,” Zardari aide Farahnaz Ispahani said in an e-mail.

Police stepped up patrols in Karachi on Friday, but the city of more than 16 million was mostly quiet as most traffic remained off the road to avoid new possible outbursts of violence.

Police Chief Azad Khan said a special team of senior investigators had been sent to the scene of the attack to investigate.

The Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine was attacked at the busiest time of the week when thousands typically visit to pray, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of the saint.

One bomb went off as the suspected attacker was going through the metal detector before a long staircase leading to the main shrine area, said Babar Khattak, the top police official in Sindh province. A second blast followed 10 seconds later, farther ahead of the metal detector, he said.

The explosions left the shrine splattered with blood and flesh, and the dead included two children.

“I heard a huge bang and smoke billowed from there,” said Mohibullah Khan, a 38-year-old manual laborer who was about to visit the shrine after evening prayers at a nearby mosque when it was attacked. “I ran back toward the mosque and seconds after heard another big explosion. Then I moved to help the wounded and put six or seven of the crying ones in ambulances and police vehicles.”

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