South Asia

Lahore and Karachi suicide blasts: Shias targeted

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Media captionPolice suspect the suicide bomber may have been a teenage boy

At least nine people taking part in a Shia Muslim procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore have been killed by a suicide bomb, police say.

Three policemen were said to be among the dead, while 50 other people were injured, including women and children.

Meanwhile, a suicide motorcycle bomber killed two policemen near a Shia march in the southern city of Karachi.

The blasts happened despite beefed-up security for gatherings by members of the country's minority Shia community.

The bomber in Lahore struck as Shias marked the end of their holy month, Muharram, which commemorates the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Sectarian hatred

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the BBC he expected the death toll to rise following the explosion near the Bhatti gate in central Lahore.

TV pictures showed the injured crying in pain, or in silent shock as they were carried away by emergency service workers.

At the scene of the Lahore attack, a senior police official told reporters: "A young boy tried to rush in and throw a bag into the crowd. When he was stopped, he blew himself up."

Investigators are trying to cordon off the area to collect evidence.

Details are still emerging from the suicide motorcycle bombing in eastern Karachi.

Two policemen were killed and several casualties were said to be in a critical condition.

A police official said the bomber had tried to ram a bus carrying Shia devotees.

The attacker targeted a police Jeep instead after it blocked his way.

Pakistan has seen bombings almost every week in recent years, many of them linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or the allied Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group.

A number of such attacks have occurred in Punjab province, and in particular Lahore.

Sectarian violence has also persisted among hardline elements of Pakistan's Shia and majority Sunni communities, says the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi.

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