Death toll from Pakistan Shias blast rises to 24: Minister

AFP , Saturday 24 Oct 2015

The death toll from a suspected suicide blast which targeted Shia Muslims in the southern Pakistani city of Jacobabad has risen to 24, a provincial minister said Saturday.

The officials had earlier confirmed that at least 16 people were killed and many more injured in the attack outside the residence of a local Shia leader, which came as devotees were setting off towards a main procession in the city.

Jam Mehtab Dahar, provincial minister for health in the southern province of Sindh where the attack took place, said more wounded people had succumbed to their injuries.

"The death toll has risen to 24 now," Dahar told AFP, adding that two of at least 20 wounded were still in a critical condition.

Regional police chief Sain Rakhio Mirani told AFP that at least six of the victims were children.

Mirani also said that "initial evidence" suggested a suicide bomber was responsible for the blast.

Pakistan is on high alert and has deployed some 10,000 troops and 6,000 paramilitary members to prevent sectarian violence during the mourning days of Ashura in the holy month of Moharram, a flashpoint in previous years.

Moharram, which began last week, sees Shiahold processions and gatherings to mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson Imam Hussain at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq in 680 AD.

Hussain is equally revered by Sunnis, but hardliners oppose the public mourning of his martyrdom.

Sectarian violence -- in particular by Sunni hardliners against the Shia that make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan's 200 million people -- has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.

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