DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 27 people and wounded 65 Friday in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shi’ite Muslim gunned down a day earlier in a northwestern Pakistani city, officials said.
Sectarian violence between militant Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite groups has plagued the town of Dera Ismail Khan on the western bank of the Indus river and close to the South Waziristan tribal region, where support runs deep for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“The blast occurred when a funeral procession for a Shi’ite Muslim murdered a day earlier was passing by,” said Syed Mohsin Shah, the area’s top administrator.
“According to our last tally, the death toll is 27 and hopefully, it won’t go up as all 65 wounded are said to be stable,” he said.
Police said they had found the body parts of the suspected bomber.
“It’s a suicide blast. We have found the severed legs of the suspected bomber,” said deputy superintendent Sanaullah, who had been part of the police escort for the procession.
Other witnesses told the policeman that they had seen a motorcyclist drop off the bomber who then ran among the mourners before detonating the explosives strapped to his body.
“It was my worst fear before the start of the procession as it had happened before and we were very alert and had taken all possible measures. But, unfortunately, we could not prevent it.”
A bomb blast at a funeral procession for a Shi’ite in November killed at least ten people in the same city. The man had also been gunned down the day before.
After the latest outrage, people enraged by the attack vented their anger by torching vehicles and ransacking shops. Gunfire also broke out briefly.
Authorities imposed a curfew and police and troops patrolled the town, 270 km (170 miles) southwest of the capital, Islamabad.
The majority of Pakistan’s Muslims are Sunni, but around 15 percent of the 170 million nation are Shi’ite. Thousands of people have been killed in tit-for-tat sectarian violence going back to the 1980s.
Sectarian violence has flared up since last year as security analysts say al Qaeda and Taliban militants, who are Sunni and are bitterly opposed to Shi’ites, have stirred up sectarian strife in order to expand their influence across the northwest.
Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony, Kamran Haider and Alamgir Bitani; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Valerie Lee