Pakistan: Bomb at Shia procession kills 7, wounds 30

A roadside bomb killed at least seven people, including three children, and wounded 30 at a Shia Muslim procession in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, police said, as minority Shias prepared to observe the holy day of Ashoura.

The group of about 100 Shias were passing through the city of Dera Ismail Khan on their way to join a larger crowd when the bomb went off, said police official Rashid Khan, who reported the casualty toll.

No one claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on Pakistani Taliban, who carry out such attacks.

On Sunday, Shias in Pakistan will celebrate Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson. The Sunni-Shia schism over Muhammad's rightful heir dates back to that time.

President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the bombing, which took place near the South Waziristan tribal region.

"Such nefarious acts cannot deter the people and the government in their fight against the scourge of militancy," he said in a statement.

Sunni extremists frequently attack Shias, who they consider heretics, and the Ashoura ceremonies are a prime target, bringing out crowds of Shias to march in processions mourning Hussein.

On Wednesday night, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a Shia Muslim procession in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad, killing 17 people. Initially police said 23 people were killed in this attack, but later authorities put the death toll from bombing to 17. They provided no explanation for discrepancy in death toll.

Also Wednesday, the Taliban set off two bombs within minutes outside a Shia mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing one person and wounding 15 others. Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Qamar Zaidi, spokesman for main Shia political party Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh Jafariya, vowed this week to go ahead with Ashoura processions across the country despite threats of attacks.

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