, KARACHI, Oct 8 – Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a Sufi shrine in Karachi killing nine worshippers, including two children, as Pakistan battles a wave of violence linked to Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists.
City police chief Fayyaz Leghari said 64 people were also wounded in the suspected suicide attack late Thursday in Karachi, a teeming port city that is a maelstrom of communal and criminal violence.
"Both were suicide attacks and we are now preparing profiles of the bombers," said Leghari.
He said the death toll had risen from eight overnight after one of the injured died in hospital, while 15 patients remain in a critical condition.
The bombs exploded at the entrance of the shrine to Abdullah Shah Ghazi, a saint in the Sufi mystical strain of Islam, as devotees packed it for a weekly gathering in the city\’s seaside Clifton district.
Witness Gul Mohammad said he was outside the shrine when two huge blasts were heard in quick succession. "I rushed inside and saw blood and human flesh," he said.
"Some bodies were lying on the ground and several people wounded in the blasts were crying in pain. Then ambulances started arriving and moving the injured to hospitals."
"It was a terrorist attack," said Sindh provincial home minister Zulfikar Mirza, who said the government had decided to seal all shrines in the city immediately over security fears.
A bomb attack in July at a popular Sufi site in the eastern city of Lahore killed more than 40 people. Militant Islamists see visits to Sufi shrines and some rituals as un-Islamic.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Pakistani Taliban has been blamed for similar bombings in the past.
Karachi shut down Friday after religious and political parties called on people to protest the attacks in the city.
Shopping centres, gas stations, schools and shops were closed, and the usually jam-packed roads were deserted.
More than 3,700 people have been killed in a series of suicide attacks and bombings, many of them carried out by the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, in Pakistan during the past three years.
The United States, whose intensifying drone strikes against Islamist militants in northwest Pakistan have raised tensions with Islamabad, condemned the attack. Related article: Pakistan envoy criticises US travel alert
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington stood "shoulder-to-shoulder with Pakistan in its struggle against terrorism".
The United States has dramatically increased drone strikes against militants in the lawless tribal areas allegedly at the centre of a plot to carry out Mumbai-style attacks on European cities.
On Sunday, the United States warned that its citizens may be at risk of terrorist attacks while travelling in Europe, followed by similar alerts from Britain, Japan and Sweden.
Pakistan\’s ambassador to Britain however said Washington\’s alert may have been politically motivated, ahead of mid-term US elections next month.
"I will not deny the fact that there may be internal political dynamics, including the forthcoming mid-term American elections," High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan was quoted as saying in Friday\’s Guardian newspaper.
Hasan further said recent US attacks inside Pakistan had "set the country on fire" and warned that mounting public anger could lead to American personnel in Pakistan being attacked. Related article: US-Pakistani tension \’exposes contradictory aims\’
"There is a figure that there are 3,000 American personnel in Pakistan. They would be very easy targets."
Pakistan\’s US envoy had said Wednesday the increased drone strikes were linked to the alleged European terror plot.
Four militants were killed in the latest missile strike Thursday in North Waziristan district, hours after Pakistan said there was "no justification" for the attacks by the pilotless aircraft on its soil and called on Washington to rethink its policy.
The missile strikes have reached record levels in the past month, killing more than 150 people since September 3, amid reported US criticism of Pakistan\’s efforts to stamp out the Islamist threat in the border region.
The US has apologised for a fatal helicopter strike in Pakistan, as it presses its key anti-terror ally to reopen a key border crossing to Afghan-bound NATO supply trucks that have come under repeated Taliban attack.