ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a religious centre for minority Shi’ite Muslims in central Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 17 people, a day after a deadly suicide attack in the capital, officials said.
Pakistan is crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan and U.S. President Barack Obama has said the release of additional U.S. aid to the nuclear-armed country depends on how it tackles terrorism.
The attack in the city of Chakwal came a day after a pilotless U.S. drone aircraft killed 13 people including militants in the northwest and a suicide bomber killed eight soldiers in Islamabad.
Sunday’s attack occurred in the central Punjab city of Chakwal, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Islamabad. “So far we have confirmation of 17 dead but it could rise further as around 11 wounded people are in very serious condition,” Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Law Minister told Reuters.
Tasswar Hussain, a resident of Chakwal said, around 2,000 members of minority Shi’ite Muslims were gathered for a religious ceremony in the centre when attack took place.
“Some people were going out of the centre when a young man came running into the gathering. As he was stopped, he blew himself up,” he added.
Sanaullah also confirmed it was a suicide attack.
Hussain said around 100 people were wounded.
Pakistan has a long history of tit-for-tat attacks by militants from majority Sunni and minority Shi’ite Muslim communities in which thousands of people have been killed.