15 killed in Pakistan as bombs target bus, hospital

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two bomb blasts targeting a bus filled with Shiite Muslims and later a hospital in Karachi killed at least 15 people Friday in the latest outbreak of violence plaguing the troubled, nuclear-armed state.

The first attack occurred early in the afternoon in the heart of Karachi, when an explosives-laden motorcycle detonated near a bus taking Pakistani Shiites to a procession marking the end of the holy month of Muharram, Karachi police said. The explosion killed at least 12 people and injured 50, provincial health officials said.

Less than two hours later, at the Jinnah Hospital, where many of the injured from the first blast were taken, a second explosion rocked the parking lot adjacent to the hospital’s emergency ward. That blast killed at least three people and injured 20.

The explosion created a panic at the hospital, where Shiite Muslims angrily shouted at police for providing poor security and began checking the undersides of cars in the parking lot for evidence of any other explosives.

Authorities said they believe the second blast also involved an explosives-laden motorcycle, parked amid other motorcycles and cars in the hospital’s parking lot.

With a population of 16 million, Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and its financial capital. Friday’s attacks come five weeks after a suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of a Shiite Muslim procession in Karachi, killing 43 people. That attack, on Dec. 28, targeted Shiites marking Ashura, Shia Muslims’ holiest day.

There was no claim of responsibility for either attack Friday. However, Shiite Muslims are a minority in Pakistan and are often targets of sectarian violence at the hands of Sunni Muslim extremist groups.