GHAZI KHAN - At least 32 people were killed and more than 50 others injured when a suicide bomber ripped through a crowd near an Imambargah in Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday evening.
The bomber struck near General Bus Stand at Muslim Town when the Chehlum procession was being held in the Imambargah.
Regional police officer DG Khan Mubarak Ali Athar confirmed that it was a suicide blast in which about 12-kilogram explosive material was used. He said body parts of the bomber have not yet been traced but the investigation in this regard was in progress.
He said all the entry and exit points of the city have been sealed after the bombing.
Over 200 people were in attendance when all of a sudden the bomb exploded in the middle of the procession route, eyewitnesses said.
The explosion was so powerful that windowpanes of nearby houses and shops were broken while the sound of the blast was heard over around two kilometres.
The bomb disposal squad, police officials, emergency service 1122 rushed to the spot. The injured were shifted to the Divisional Headquarters Hospital.
Agencies add: Police said the blast targeted dozens of people converging on the Al-Hussainia Imambargah after dark, shortly before a religious gathering. "The death toll is now 32," Rescue 1122 officials said.
The toll would make it the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since a suicide attack struck a meeting of anti-Taliban tribal leaders in the northwest border areas near Afghanistan and killed at least 40 people last October 10.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's blast, police were swift to blame sectarian extremists following a wave of similar violence in Pakistan.
"The explosion occurred just 50 feet short of the mosque. It is a terrorist attack aimed at Shias to create unrest," a police official said.
District health official doctor Fazal Karim confirmed that 13 bodies were brought to the local hospital, including those of two children and a woman, but said he did not know how many dead may have been counted elsewhere.
Medics said six people with serious injuries were rushed for specialist treatment in Multan. But of 50 people hurt in the blast, most were released after first aid, the officials said.
The powerful blast caused serious damage to the mosque and another nearby Shia holy place in the town, local police official Mohammed Ahsan said.
Rescue workers were seen trying to clear a crowd out of the way to let ambulances pass in darkness, in footage broadcast by TV channels.
"The initial report is that it was a suicide attack. He exploded himself in the crowd. Body parts have been found and sent to the hospital," district police chief Mubarak Ali Athar told reporters.
"The attacker was wearing a jacket carrying 12 to 14 kilograms of explosives," he added.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the bomb blast in Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday.
The President and the Prime Minister in their separate messages deplored the loss of innocent lives and directed the health authorities to provide best medical care to the wounded.
They also directed the concerned authorities to initiate an immediate inquiry into the tragic incident and bring the culprits to justice.
The President and the Prime Minister conveyed their sympathies to the families of the victims of the bomb blast.
Former President Sardar Farooq Leghari, Senior Advisor to CM for Local Government Sardar Dost Khan Khosa, PML-N MPA Sardar Mir Badshah Khan Qaisrani strongly condemned the blast.
They demanded compensation for the dead and proper treatment for the injured.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman has strongly condemned the bomb blast in Dera Ghazi Khan on Thursday, which caused loss of precious human lives and injuries.
In a message, released here the Minister deplored the loss of innocent lives and conveyed her sympathies to the families of the victims of the bomb blast.