Dozens of Shiites Killed in Karachi, Baghdad

Dozens of Shiites Killed in Karachi, BaghdadDozens of Shiites Killed in Karachi, Baghdad

Gunmen killed at least 43 people on Wednesday aboard a bus in southern Pakistan bound for a Shiite community center, in the latest attack targeting the religious minority. Meanwhile dozens of Shiite pilgrims were killed or wounded in the Iraqi capital in several blasts.

The attack in the port city of Karachi was the deadliest Pakistan has seen in months. Provincial police chief Ghulam Haider Jamali said 43 people were killed, including 16 women, and another 13 people were wounded, AP said in a report.

The bus was in a relatively deserted area on the outskirts of the city en route to a community center for Shiite Muslims when six gunmen boarded it and opened fire, Jamali said. The attackers then fled on three motorcycles.

"These are the people who are extremists, who are terrorists," Jamali said of the assailants. "These are the same people who have been doing terrorism before."

Local TV showed the bus riddled with bullets and panicked relatives crying at the scene or waiting at the hospital.

A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban called Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. A man purporting to be a spokesman for the group called AP from an undisclosed location and said "infidels were the target." The purported spokesman, Ahmad Marwat, has conveyed similar claims in the past.

The Taliban and other militant groups have long had a presence in Karachi. Sunni extremists have targeted them in the past, though attacks on the Ismaili branch have been rare. Qasim Shah, an Ismaili community member, said the bus service had been operating for the last 10 years.

Wednesday's attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since December, when Taliban militants killed 150 people, mostly young students, at an army-run school in Peshawar.

"They were innocent people," said Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh Province, of which Karachi is the capital. "We feel very sorry for this ghastly act."

Decade-Long Conflict

The Pakistani Taliban has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the government and impose a harsh version of Islamic law. Their attacks have killed tens of thousands of people.

Pakistan launched a major military operation nearly a year ago in the North Waziristan tribal region along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and other militant groups had long found safe haven.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif cancelled a three-day visit to Sri Lanka after Wednesday's attack. He and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Kabul on Tuesday, where they pledged to work with the Afghan government to fight militants.

The prime minister condemned the bus attack, calling it "an attempt to create chaos."

"Terrorists have chosen a very peaceful and patriotic community to target in order to achieve their nefarious designs," he said.

19 Shiite Pilgrims Killed

Attacks on Shiite pilgrims commemorating the death of revered 8th century Shiite Imam Moussa al-Kazim killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 50 across Baghdad, police officials said.

The largest of the attacks happened in central Baghdad when a suicide bomber attacked pilgrims buying food and drinks on their way back from the Imam's shrine located in the capital's Kazimiyah neighborhood.

Officials said at least 10 people were killed in the attack and another 25 wounded. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement distributed on associated Twitter accounts Tuesday.

In eastern Baghdad, another two pilgrims were killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb exploded on Palestine Street. On the northeastern edge of the capital, in the town of Bab al-Sham, at least three mortars targeted Shiite pilgrims, killing four and wounding at least 12.

Also in Mashahidah, just north of Baghdad, at least three pilgrims were killed and eight wounded by an improvised explosive device. Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to brief the media.