Pak to cut phone services to prevent Muharram attacks

Pakistan's interior minister Friday said the government will suspend cell phone services in most parts of the country over the next two days to prevent attacks against Shia Muslims during a key religious commemoration.

Militants often detonate bombs using cell phones and this is the first time the government has implemented such a wide-scale suspension.

Saturday and Sunday are the most important days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, especially important to Shias. Pakistani Shias Sunday observe Ashoura, commemorating the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson. Different parts of the Muslim world mark Ashoura on different days — neighbouring Afghanistan, for example, observes it on Saturday.

"The suspension of cell phone services will begin at 6 am Saturday and run through the next day," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. He said 90 per cent of the bombs set off by militants in Pakistan have been detonated using cell phones.

Some criticized the government for suspending services, saying it was a huge inconvenience.

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