|Bomb targeting Shia Muslims kill 25 in Karachi||
KARACHI (Reuters) - A suspected suicide bomber attacked Shia Muslims as they were leaving a mosque in Pakistan's commercial capital on Sunday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50, police said.
"It was a powerful blast on a congested Shia-dominated area," senior police official Shabir Ahmad Sheikh said of the attack, the latest signal that Sunni militant groups are stepping up pressure on the minority sect.
Extremist groups, most prominently Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), have escalated attacks against Shias, who they believe are non-Muslims.
Bombings targeting Shias have killed nearly 200 people in the city of Quetta alone since the start of the year.
While the Quetta carnage grabbed world attention, a Reuters inquiry into a lesser known spate of murders in Karachi suggests the violence is taking on a volatile new dimension as a small number of Shias fight back.
Pakistan's Western allies have traditionally been fixated on the challenge posed to the brittle, nuclear-armed state by Taliban militants battling the army in the bleakly spectacular highlands on the Afghan frontier.
But a cycle of tit-for-tat killings on the streets of Karachi points to a new type of threat: a campaign by LeJ and allied Pakistani anti-Shia groups to rip open sectarian fault-lines in the city of 18 million people.
Pakistani intelligence agents say the LeJ has become a major security threat in Pakistan that is also struggling with a fragile economy, dilapidated infrastructure and widespread poverty.
Shia frustrations are rising with each blast. Shias fired weapons in the air on Sunday night in Karachi, a bustling metropolis plagued by ethnic and political violence and crime.
"The explosion was so massive it jolted the entire area," said witness Ali Reza. "Two flats and nearby shops caught fire after the explosion and balconies of various buildings collapsed."
Another witness, Muhammad Kazim, said women and children who were shopping nearby were wounded.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader