Pakistan suicide bombing death toll rises to 8
The death toll from a suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim gathering in the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir increased to eight Monday, police said, as minority Shiites marked the key holy day of Ashura, AP reported.
Another 80 people were wounded in Sunday night's bombing in Muzaffarabad - a rare sectarian attack in an area police say has little history of militant violence. The dead included three police, said police official Yasin Baig, adding that another 10 police were among the wounded.
The suicide bomber set off explosives he was carrying as police searched him outside a ceremony commemorating the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, held every year on Ashura at the start of the Islamic holy month of Muharram.
Security has been tightened across Pakistan during Muharram, which is often marred by bombings and fighting between Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority and its Shiite minority.
Baig said Shiite mourners at the commemoration ceremony in Muzaffarabad took to the streets after the attack to protest the bombing, with some firing shots in the air. Baig said authorities restored order within about an hour.
He said it was the first time a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite gathering in the region.
Muslim militants have fought for decades to free Kashmir, which is split between India and Pakistan and claimed by both, from New Delhi's rule. But while Muzaffarabad has served as a base for anti-India insurgents to train and launch attacks, the capital - and most of the Pakistani side - has largely been spared any violence, with militants focusing on the Indian-controlled portion.
The bombing highlights the growing extremism of militants in Pakistani Kashmir. Many of the region's armed groups were started with support from Islamabad. But some of them have turned against their former patrons and joined forces with the Taliban because the government has reduced its support under U.S. pressure.
The partnership is a dangerous development for Pakistan as it could enable the Taliban to carry out attacks more easily outside its sanctuary in the country's tribal areas in the northwest. More than 500 people have been killed in retaliatory attacks since the military launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in mid-October in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan near the Afghan border.