Mon, Apr 06, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Pakistan bomber kills at least 22

GATE-CRASHER Police said that if the suicide bomber hadn’t been kept from entering the religious center in Chakwal, the body count would have been much higher

REUTERS AND AFP , CHAKWAL AND QUETTA, PAKISTAN

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in Pakistan yesterday, killing 22 people a day after a deadly suicide attack in the capital, police said.

The attack in the central city of Chakwal came a day after a pilotless US drone aircraft killed 13 people including militants in the northwest and a suicide bomber killed eight soldiers in Islamabad.

About 2,000 people had gathered at a Shiite religious center in Chakwal, south of Islamabad, for a ceremony when the bomber struck.

“There was a break in the ceremony and some people were going out and others were coming in when all of a sudden a young man tried to run into the crowd,” a witness said. “When guards tried to stop him at the gate he blew himself up.”

Regional police chief Nasir Khan Durrani said 22 people had been killed and 35 wounded. Durrani said the death toll would have been much higher if the bomber had managed to force his way into the crowd.

Outside the religious center, blood was splattered over the gate and walls while shoes and other possessions were strewn on the ground. Three mangled motorcycles lay outside the gate.

In related news, Pakistani and Afghan officials prepared yesterday to send home the bodies of 46 Afghans found crammed into a truck container believed to have been bound for Iran, officials said.

The container, carrying around 110 people, was found about 20km south of Quetta, capital of oil and gas rich Baluchistan Province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, police said.

“The death toll is 46,” police official Ghulam Dastagir told reporters from the southwestern province after the bodies were found on Saturday. “[Another] 45 people were unconscious and have been admitted to hospital.”

The investigation into the matter had been handed over to Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which deals with immigration matters.

“We are investigating the matter and have contacted the Afghan consulate in Quetta, who have visited the hospital,” FIA Director Shahab Azeem told reporters.

“According to initial investigations the survivors have told us that they boarded the container at Chaman border and had to come to Quetta for onward journey to Iran,” Azeem said.

The official said a case had been registered against an Afghan national, Gul Agha, who according to survivors charged 30,000 rupees (US$375) each to take them to Iran.

Afghanistan’s counsel general in Quetta, Mohammad Daud Mohsini, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai had ordered authorities to send a special plane to fly the victims home.

Karzai’s office in Kabul said that the president was saddened by the deaths and warned against illegal migration.

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