Hundreds of people headed to a Pakistani sports field on Monday to mourn the victims of a suicide bombing that killed 26 and wounded dozens at a crowded Shiite mosque a gathering that itself raised security fears.Mourners walked through metal detectors and were physically searched before lining up for prayers at the soccer (football) field near the mosque that was attacked Sunday, local television footage showed.
Militants have often targeted funeral congregations in the U.S.-allied country, where violence has spread far beyond the Afghan border region where al-Qaida and the Taliban thrive.A little-known group believed linked to the Taliban claimed responsibility for the Sunday mosque attack in Chakwal city, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the capital, Islamabad. Pakistan also has a history of sectarian violence, often involving Sunni extremists targeting minority Shiite Muslims.Chaudhry Zulfiqar, chief investigator in Chakwal, said police have tightened security in the city to prevent any violence during the collective funeral Monday. He said the death toll from the explosion rose to 26 after four people died in hospitals overnight.
The mosque attack came as a senior Pakistani Taliban commander said his group was behind another deadly suicide bombing Saturday in Islamabad and promised two more attacks per week in the country if the U.S. does not stop missile strikes on Pakistani territory.Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned Sunday’s attack and directed authorities to “bring the perpetrators to justice.” Such statements from the premier have become a matter of routine in Pakistan, where extremists seem bent on wreaking havoc.
Most of the militant attacks in Pakistan occur in the northwest, where the Taliban and al-Qaida have strongholds from which they plan strikes on U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. Still, all of the country’s major cities have experienced assaults.A man who goes by the name Umar Farooq and says he speaks for the shadowy militant organization Fedayeen al-Islam told The Associated Press via telephone that the group staged Sunday’s attack on the mosque as part of a “campaign against infidels.”
He also warned the U.S. to stop its drone-fired missile strikes on militant targets in Pakistan’s northwest.
Little is known of the group, but it is believed linked to the Pakistani Taliban.In the past it has said it was behind other attacks, including the bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel and last week’s attack on a police academy in Lahore, but officials have never named it as a primary suspect.
Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud who also claimed responsibility for the attack on the police academy, which killed at least 12 people has vowed more assaults unless the U.S. shelves the drone-fired missiles.His deputy Hakimullah Mehsud told AP the Pakistani Taliban carried out Saturday’s suicide attack against the paramilitary camp in Islamabad. He, too, cited the missile strikes, and promised the group would carry out two suicide attacks per week in Pakistan.He also said Pakistani troops should withdraw from parts of the northwest.“We have shown enough restraint,” Hakimullah Mehsud said. “Previously, we were striking once in three months, but from now onward we will go for at least two suicide attacks a week."