KARACHI // A bomb blast killed at least 45 people and wounded dozens of others yesterday in a neighbourhood dominated by Shiites in Karachi, Pakistani officials said.
The bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque as people were leaving evening prayers, said police official Azhar Iqbal. Men, women and children were among those killed and wounded, he said.
At least 45 people were killed and 149 others were wounded, said a government official, Taha Farooqi. He said some people were feared trapped in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the bombing.
No one has claimed responsibility, but Sunni militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban have targeted Shiites in the past, claiming they were heretics.
Initial reports suggested the bomb was rigged to a motorcycle, although a survey of the damage indicates there could have been additional explosives planted at the scene. Several buildings nearby had caught fire.
Sunni militant groups have stepped up attacks in the past year against Shiite Muslims who make up about 20 per cent of Pakistan's population of 180 million people.
Two brazen attacks, the first on January 10, against Shiite Hazaras in the southwestern city of Quetta killed nearly 200 people.
Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombings, which ripped through a billiard club and a market in areas populated by Hazaras.
Pakistan's intelligence agencies helped nurture Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighbouring Iran, which is mostly Shiite. Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to attack Shiites.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 Shiites were killed last year in targeted attacks across the country, the worst year on record for such violence in Pakistan. The human rights group said more than 125 were killed in Baluchistan province.
After the January 10 bombing, the Hazara community held protests, which spread to other parts of the country. The protesters refused to bury their dead for several days while demanding a military-led crackdown against Lashkar-e-Jhanvi. Pakistan's president dismissed the provincial government and assigned a governor to run Baluchistan province.
But no operation was launched against the group until another bombing in February killed 89.
* Associated Press