A suspected suicide bomber has killed scores of people as they were leaving a Shiite Muslim mosque in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, according to officials. It is the city's deadliest attack in three years.
At least 45 people were killed and around 150 wounded in Sunday's attack, police said, adding that men, women and children were among the dead. The explosion badly damaged two-five story buildings in the Abbas town area, home to many minority Shiites.
"It was a powerful blast on a congested Shiite-dominated area," senior police officer Shabir Ahmad Sheikh said.
Initial reports indicated that a bomb was rigged to a motorcycle, although a police survey of the damage suggests additional explosions could have been planted at the scene. Police said several nearby buildings had caught fire.
Increase in violence
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militant groups in the past year have increased violence against Shiites, who constitute around 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 Shiites were killed last year in targeted attacks across the country, making 2012 the worst year on record for anti-Shiite violence in Pakistan.
Rights groups have accused the government of not doing enough to protect Shiites. Pakistan intelligence agencies helped foster the growth of Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Iran, a mostly Shiite country.
Pakistan outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to attack Shiites.
Two violent attacks against a Shiite Hazara community in the southwestern city of Quetta killed nearly 200 people in January, with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claiming responsibility.
dr/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)