Police say suicide bomber kills 5, wounds 80 in Pakistan-held Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a large gathering of Shiite Muslims in the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sunday, killing five people and wounding 80, said police.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside a large gathering of Shiite Muslims in the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Sunday, killing five people and wounding 80, said police.

The attacker blew himself up as police tried to search him at a checkpoint set up outside the event — part of the annual commemorations of the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson — said police officer Tahir Qayum. The five killed included two police, he said.

Most of the 80 injured were Shiites attending the gathering in Muzaffarabad that attracted about 1,000 people, said police officer Sardar Ilyas. Ten of the wounded are in critical condition, he said.

Minority Shiites in Pakistan have often been targeted by radical Sunnis during similar tributes, held every year during the Islamic holy month of Muharram. But Ilyas said there was no history of such sectarian clashes in Muzaffarabad.

Authorities called the army in after the attack to restore order, said Kafayat Hussain, a local minister.

Pakistan has been plagued by rising violence since the military launched a large ground offensive in mid-October in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan in the country’s lawless tribal area near the Afghan border.

Three bombs planted in a government official’s house in another tribal area exploded Sunday, killing him along with his wife and five children in an attack police said was retaliation for military operations targeting Taliban. The military has stepped up airstrikes in Kurram where many militants fled following the South Waziristan offensive.

Sunday’s attack in Sadda city targeted the house of Sarbraz Saddiqi, a government official in Kurram, said police officer Naeemullah Khan. Police are investigating how the bombs, which were timed to explode, were planted in Saddiqi’s house, he said. The explosion also wounded three people.

Many Taliban militants are also believed to have fled to North Waziristan, an area in Pakistan’s tribal region dominated by jihadi groups launching cross-border attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Washington has pressed Pakistan to target such groups but has received a reluctant response, as Islamabad has continued to concentrate on militants that pose a domestic threat.

The U.S. has responded by relying more heavily on drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including one Saturday in the Babar Raghzai area of North Waziristan.

Pakistani intelligence officials on Sunday raised the death toll from the strike to 13 after eight more bodies were pulled from the rubble and two wounded died in the hospital.

The U.S. rarely discusses the covert program but has in the past said it has taken out several top al-Qaida operatives.

Most of the people killed in Saturday’s strike were militants, said the intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistan publicly opposes the strikes but is believed to secretly aid them.

———

Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar and Rasool Dawar in Mir Ali contributed to this report.

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