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12 killed in blasts in Muharram procession in Pakistan

Islamabad, Feb 9, IRNA-At least 12 people were killed and several others injured in a series of bomb blasts during a Muharram procession in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Thursday, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said.

The attack in the town of Hangu, some 200 kilometers northwest of Islamabad, came as mourners were holding the traditional Muharram procession to mark the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussein (AS), grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Aftab Sherpao told Geo television that the Army had taken control of the violence-hit town and had imposed a curfew to check any further violence.

Paramilitary forces had also been deployed and had taken position in the nearby mountains overlooking the town.

He said that angry mobs burned 20 shops in the town and fire fighters were sent to the town to extinguish the fires. He said that the main bazar was cleared of people in a few hours and the army was in full control of the situation.

To a question regarding the nature of the blast, the Interior Minister said there were two possibilities: one that a timer might have been used or it was a suicide attack.

"An investigation is underway and the nature of the attack will be clear after the probe is completed, he added.

A Shiite leader, Khurshid Anwar Jawadi, described the incident as a suicide attack.

Chief Minister of NWFP Akram Khan Durrani condemned the attack and announced that an inquiry will be conducted by a High Court judge.

"Whoever is involved in the attack will not be spared," Durrani told reporters in Peshawar after presiding over a high-level emergency meeting to review the security situation.

He also announced compensation for the families of those who died in the attack.

The situation was tense in the town as violence broke out after the blast and the angry mob started burning shops and vehicles in the city. The angry people also started firing into the air.

The blasts took place between 9:30 am and 9:40 am near the main stage where leaders were planned to deliver speeches.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But such incidents are always blamed on rival extremist elements.

"It is the work of the enemy and miscreants," Shia leader Jawadi told reporters after the blast.

Sunni and Shia religious leaders made announcements through loudspeakers asking the people to be calm.

Jawadi expressed dissatisfaction over the security arrangements made by local authorities, saying miscreants succeeded in joining the procession due to the poor security arrangements.

The authorities, however, said they had made all necessary security arrangements and searched the bodies of most of the participants.

... Payvand News - 2/9/06 ... --

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