ISLAMABAD (AP) — A suicide bomber targeted a Shiite religious procession in the southern Pakistan city of Jacobabad on Friday, killing at least 18 people and wounding 35 others, police said.
The attacker hit the procession of Ashoura mourners as it reached the end of its route near a park, said Allah Rakhio Mirani, the regional police chief. A police escort had been accompanying the procession, officer Zafar Iqbal said.
Mirani said eight children, ages 8 to 15, were among the dead.
Many of the wounded, including six or seven children, were in critical condition at the city's main hospital and the death toll could rise, he said.
The Shiite mourners became violent after the attack and attempted to ransack a government building, Mirani said.
Police fired tear gas to control the mob, which later staged a sit-in in front of the office of the district's top administrative official demanding immediate action to arrest the culprits behind the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion fell on Sunni extremists who have been blamed for previous such attacks.
It came as minority Shiite Muslims marked Ashoura, a 10-day ritual when they commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Shiite Muslims hold public rallies despite threats from Sunni extremists who consider them to be heretics.
A day earlier, a suicide bomber targeted a Shiite mosque in southwest Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding several others in Sibi district of Baluchistan province.
The suicide attacker, disguised in a woman's head-to-toe burqa dress, entered the mosque as people at the mosque held an Ashoura-related gathering.
Six children were among those killed, Baluchistan home minister Sarfaraz Bugti has said.
Pakistani authorities have put heightened security arrangements in place to protect Ashoura events, including sealing off procession routes and suspending cell phone services in certain areas. Paramilitary troops were escorting processions and soldiers were on standby in case of further attacks.