There is no let up in militant violence in Pakistan, where a suicide bomber struck a Shiite Muslim mosque in a central town, killing at least 24 worshipers and wounding dozens others. A day earlier, a suicide attack left eight security forces dead in Islamabad while a suspected U.S drone attack on a militant base in a remote border region killed 13 people.
The suicide attack in the Pakistani town of Chakwal targeted a central mosque where hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims had gathered for a religious ceremony.
Witnesses and police say the powerful explosion instantly caused most of the deaths and hospital sources have described the condition of some of those wounded as critical.
Speaking to reporters at the scene of the attack, regional police chief Nasir Durrani said that tight security and metal detectors at the entrance to the mosque minimized human losses.
The police officer says had the attacker succeeded in exploding inside the mosque it could have caused a much bigger loss because there were hundreds of people inside.
An eyewitness Muhammad Adeel says the attacker was a teenager dressed in black like other worshipers.
He says scores of people were present outside the mosque and waiting for their turn to enter the building. All of a sudden, he says, a young man came running into the gathering and detonated the bomb when security guards tried to stop him at the gate.
The town where Sunday's attack took place is located at about 100-kilometers south of Islamabad. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has condemned the violence and has ordered an investigation.
Authorities have previously blamed militants from the majority Sunni Muslim community for such attacks. But security experts say sectarian militancy has intensified in the country since anti-Shiite groups forged ties with al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Sunday's attack came a day after a suicide bomber struck a paramilitary post in Islamabad, killing eight solders and wounding four others. Officials blamed Taliban-linked militants for that attack in a high security zone in the Pakistani capital. Hours earlier, an alleged U.S drone attack on a militant hideout in a remote border region killed 13 suspected al-Qaida linked militants.
Fugitive commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has claimed credit for a series of deadly attacks across the country in recent weeks. He says the violence is in retaliation for U.S drone attacks against his fighters.