Blasts kill at least 7 at Karachi shrine

KARACHI Thu Oct 7, 2010 5:42pm EDT

1 of 2. Children, injured from suicide bomb blasts at a Sufi shrine, are brought to a hospital for treatment in Karachi, October 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Majid Hussain

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KARACHI (Reuters) - Two suspected suicide bombers struck at a crowded Sufi Muslim shrine in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Thursday, killing at least seven people and wounding 65, police and hospital officials said.

The U.S.-backed Pakistani government is battling Taliban insurgents who remain effective despite military crackdowns on their strongholds in the northwest near the Afghan border.

"According to initial reports they were two bombers who blew themselves up one after another after entering the compound," said Zulfiqar Mirza, home minister of Sindh province. Karachi is Sindh's capital and Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub.

"We found two heads."

Body parts and shoes were littered across the floor of the shrine compound. Rescue workers collected body parts.

Hospital officials said 65 people were being treated, most of them for serious injuries. The wounded included seven children and 10 women, said Seemi Jamali, in charge of emergencies at Jinnah Hospital.

Muslims in Pakistan visit shrines and mosques in large numbers on Thursday nights and Fridays.

Islamist groups are trying to foment conflict among Pakistan's religious sects in an attempt to destabilize a government under pressure from the United States and other countries to crack down harder on militants, analysts say.

Three suicide bombers struck a Sufi shrine in the eastern city of Lahore in July, killing at least 41 people.

The Pakistani army has been stretched because of its relief efforts after summer floods which made over 10 million people homeless and inflicted billions of dollars' worth of damage. Karachi is

Tensions are high between Washington and Islamabad -- long-time allies whose relations are often stormy -- because of NATO cross-border incursions. U.S. helicopters killed two Pakistan soldiers in one of them a week ago.

Pakistan closed one of the supply routes to U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan after the incident, citing security reasons. The United States apologized and its ambassador to Islamabad said it was a "terrible accident."

Taliban militants generally abhor the Sufi strand of Islam and disapprove of visiting shrines, which is popular with many Pakistanis.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Andrew Roche)

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