Karachi shuts down, mourns attack on Shia procession
Tuesday, 29 Dec, 2009
KARACHI: Karachi shut down Tuesday to mourn at least 33 people killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia procession on their holiest day.
Monday’s blast sparked riots in Pakistan’s largest city where angry mourners went on the rampage, throwing stones at ambulances, torching cars and shops and firing bullets into the air, sparking appeals for calm.
“The death toll has risen to 33 and there are more than 60 people who were wounded,” said Saghir Ahmed, health minister of the southern Sindh province of which Karachi is capital.
Investigators said the upper part of the bomber had been retrieved from the blast site, the busy Mohammad Ali Jinnah road where several wholesale markets of plastic goods and other merchandise are situated.
“The explosion ripped his legs off but the upper part of his body remained intact with his head. The bomber used 16 kilograms of highly explosive material in his attack,” said bomb disposal official Munir Shaikh.
Firefighters struggled throughout the night to extinguish a fire at the nearby markets that was set ablaze by angry mourners, as stunned vendors waited helplessly for an opportunity to salvage anything left.
An AFP reporter said the area was littered with abandoned sandals, water bottles, lunch boxes and charred wreckage of cars and buses. Traffic was thin because the government announced a day of mourning.
The bomber blew himself up alongside Pakistan’s main parade for Ashura when Shias mourn the death of Imam Hussein.
Mohammad Hanif, a plastic toys vendor, told AFP outside his ruined shop that the bombing had robbed him of his livelihood.
“Terrorists have not only killed people attending the procession, but they killed us and our families who depended on this shop,” Hanif said, tears in his eyes.
Karachi Mayor Mustafa Kamal said losses could run into millions of rupees and said the government would do everything to compensate traders.
“The losses are huge. We will try to compensate people as much as we can with the help of federal and provincial governments,” Kamal told AFP.
Sindh police chief Salahuddin Babar Khattak said a special investigation team had been set up to probe the bombing.
Preparations to bury the dead were in progress with funeral prayers scheduled later Tuesday.