DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan // A blast killed at least eight mourners today at the funeral of a Shiite cleric in northwestern Pakistan who was gunned down hours earlier, police said. At least 28 others were wounded. After the explosion, a mob burnt several shops and vehicles near the blast site in Dera Ismail Khan, Saadullah Marwat, a police officer, said. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is undergoing a wave of Islamist violence that risks destabilising the country as the West seeks its support in fighting al-Qaida and Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The motives for the shooting and blast were unclear, but in the past members of Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslim community have attacked Shiites, considered by some to be heretical. Northwestern Pakistan is home to scores of al Qa'eda and Taliban extremists. They are Sunni, but mostly attack Pakistani police and military trying to root them out of the area. The victims were attending the funeral of Allama Nazir Shah Naqvi, a cleric who was fatally shot earlier today, Mr Marwat said, adding it was not yet clear if the blast was from a hidden explosive device, a grenade or a suicide bomber. Eight bodies were taken to a local hospital where 28 people wounded in the attack were being treated, including some in critical condition, Dr Farid Mehsud said.
Also in the border region, a suicide bomber late yesterday attacked a mosque where government-backed anti-militant tribesman were praying, killing eight, including the head of the group, officials said. Seeking to curb soaring violence in Afghanistan, America is believed to have staged some 20 missile strikes on militant targets in Pakistan since August, almost all of them aimed at the lawless tribal region along the Afghan border.
But for the first time on Wednesday, the missiles targeted militants beyond the tribal areas, deeper inside Pakistan. Six suspected insurgents were killed. Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador Anne Patterson on Thursday to protest the strike, the second time she has been called in since August. "It was underscored to the US ambassador that such attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," a ministry statement said.
The foreign secretary stressed the attacks must be stopped. The US rarely confirms or denies involvement in strikes inside Pakistan, which are believed to be carried out mainly by unmanned CIA drones flown from Afghanistan. * AP