South Asia

Pakistan: Bomb kills 18 at Karachi gambling den

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Media captionSyed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi: "The sophistication points to jihadist militants"

At least 18 people have been killed in a bombing in one of the largest gambling dens in the volatile Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.

The attack took place in the Lyari neighbourhood, where a number of warring drug and arms gangs operate.

It came amid a surge in targeted political and ethnic killings in Karachi in which hundreds have died in recent months.

Police suspect the latest attack was carried out by Islamist militants.

The Taliban have attacked a number of targets in Karachi, but this would be the first on an illegal gambling club.

Security officials told the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi that the device was sophisticated and bore the hallmarks of the militants.

Shrapnel

The attack happened late on Thursday in the Rummy Club in the Ghas Mandi area of old Karachi.

Some 30 others were reported to have been wounded in the explosion.

The Rummy Club is one of many popular gambling dens in what is a poorer part of the south of the city. It is frequented by members of Karachi's various ethnic groups.

Police officials told the BBC the bomb was planted inside a room within the den and detonated by remote control.

Officials say the high number of casualties was due to such a large number of people being packed inside the club.

Eyewitnesses described how shrapnel from the bomb ripped through victims, killing many instantly.

Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, is reeling from a wave of political and ethnic attacks which human rights groups say claimed 775 lives last year. Scores more have died in 2011.

Most of the violence is blamed on local criminal gangs and rival political parties.

Until now, Islamist militants have concentrated on different targets in the city, attacking security forces, minority Shias and a Sufi shrine.