LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A teenage suicide bomber blew himself up near a religious procession of Shi’ite Muslims in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Tuesday, killing atlas 13 people and wounding more than 50, officials said.
Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban have attacked such religious gatherings in the past as part of their bloody campaign to create chaos and topple the U.S.-backed Pakistani government.
“A 13-year-old boy detonated explosives as policemen tried to check him at a cordon near the procession,” Lahore police chief Aslam Tarin told Reuters.
Hospital officials said 13 people, including three policemen and a women, were killed and around 52 people were wounded.
There was also a blast in the country’s biggest city of Karachi after a Shi’ite procession passed through a lower-class neighbourhood. Initial reports suggested a bomber on a motorbike struck a police vehicle. Hospital officials said one policeman was killed and two wounded.
Shi’ites stage large rallies on the streets to mark Chehlumor Arba’in, the end of their 40-day religious mourning period for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, who was killed during a battle in A.D. 680 in Karbala, a city in modern-day Iraq.
Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban deem Shi’ites as heretics.
Militants have unleashed a wave of suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan. The attacks on religious minorities are part of their wider campaign to destabilise Pakistan.
A group affiliated with the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We will continue such attacks in future,” Shakirullah Shakir, a spokesman for Fidayeen-e-Islam militant group told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud and Faisal Aziz in Karachi; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton