MULTAN, Pakistan -- A powerful explosion hit a procession of Shiite Muslims in central Pakistan on Thursday, wounding at least 30 people, witnesses and a Shiite leader said. There were unconfirmed reports of deaths among the victims.
Videos circulating on social media showed police and ambulances rushing toward the site of the bombing. Several wounded people were seen waiting for help along a road in the deeply conservative city of Bahawalnagar in the eastern Punjab province where the attack took place.
A Shiite leader, Khawar Shafqat, confirmed the bombing in a statement but provided no further details.
No government official or police officials were available for comment, as authorities had suspended mobile phone service across the country a day ago ahead of the Ashoura festival.
The annual commemoration mourns the 7th century death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s most beloved saints.
According to Shafqat, the explosion took place when a procession of Shiite Muslims was passing through a congested neighborhood of Muhajir Colony. He condemned the attack and asked government to further step up security at processions which were being taken out in other parts of the country as well.
Shiites are a minority in predominant Sunni Muslim Pakistan, where extremist Sunni Muslims view them as apostates deserving of death.