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Bomb Kills 12 Near Pakistani Capital - 2002-04-26

A bomb in Pakistan killed 12 people, most of them women, attending a religious gathering of minority Shiite Muslims.

Police have said the bomb exploded in a mosque in the central town of Bukker, about 500 kilometers southwest of the Pakistani capital. Thousands of Shiite Muslims were at the mosque for an annual religious gathering.

In addition to those killed, nearly two dozen worshipers are said to have been injured in the blast.

Witnesses have said local mosques are still making announcements to help trace children lost in the chaos that followed the explosion

A local Shiite leader, Wazarat Hussain Naqvi, who was attending the big religious gathering, told VOA by telephone the powerful device was planted in the women's section of the mosque.

"From all over Pakistan, the Shiite community participates in this function," Mr. Naqvi explained. "Last night a bomb blast occurred, and at the spot 13 ladies [and] two children expired as a result of this bomb blast. It is a terrorist act."

Police and hospital officials have both confirmed 12 dead. They include eight women and four children.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Local Shiite leaders in the town of Bukkar are blaming militants from the majority Sunni Muslims in Pakistan. Police have said an investigation is under way.

Religiously motivated attacks have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years in Pakistan. According to government estimates, tension between Shiite and Sunni extremist groups claimed more than 500 lives last year.

Earlier this year, in an effort to stem the violence, Pakistani military leader General Pervez Musharraf outlawed militant groups belonging to both Islamist sects.