Prayers for Pakistan blast victims

At least 41 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a powerful car bomb ripped through a prayer gathering of Sunni Muslim radicals in central Pakistan.

The blast was aimed at 2,000 Sunnis from an outlawed group who had gathered in the city of Multan, a hotbed of Islamic extremism, to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of their leader.

The group, known as Millat-e-Islamia, the new name for the outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba led by the late Azam Tariq, has been accused of killing hundreds of Shiites since the 1980’s.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack but Sunni leaders immediately blamed Shiite extremists.

But Shiite leader Allama Syed Taqi Naqvi has denied any involvement in the blasts.

Only six days earlier 30 worshippers from the rival Shiite minority were killed by a suicide bomber as they prayed in the eastern city of Sialkot.

Police said they had feared a revenge attack.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid condemned the latest attack as “an act of brutal terrorism”, and Millat-e-Islamia’s Ludhianvi called a two-day mourning period.

Funerals for the dead were held in a ground next to the hospital and prayers for seven others who were killed on the spot were held elsewhere in the city.

The bodies were later transported to their home towns for burial.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary troops were deployed to guard mosques and religious schools in several cities to prevent follow-up violence and the federal government has decided to impose bans on processions, religious gatherings and congregation until further orders.

The latest attack brings to six the number of sectarian attacks this year and raises the death toll to 165, one of the highest in two decades of sectarian bloodletting.

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