Scores killed in bombings at Pakistani shrine

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

A famous Sufi shrine in Pakistan. Sufism is unique in Islam in that it preaches equality for both genders.
Image: Zeeshan Javeed.

At least 37 people were killed after two suicide bombings struck the Data Durbar Complex, a Sufi shrine in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province.

The attacks took place during a worship service at around midnight, when several thousand people were reportedly inside. According to officials, at least 37 people were killed and around 175 injured.

Only two attackers have been confirmed as setting off bombs, although police said in the immediate aftermath of the attack that three explosions had been heard. Police have recovered the heads of two attackers, whose ages are estimated to be around 17 and 22.

Damage to the shrine was severe, as one bomb was set off in the basement of the building, and another upstairs. The courtyard was almost entirely destroyed. According to police, the bombs included ball bearings for the largest possible impact.

A witness to the explosion, security guard Mohammed Nasir, described it as "horrible," saying that "[T]here were dead bodies all around with blood and people were crying."

A spokesperson for the Pakistani government said that "[T]hose who still pretend that we are not a nation at war are complicit in these deaths."

Sufism is a branch of Islam that preaches equality, unique in Islam in that women are granted access; the province of Punjab has traditionally been a cultural stronghold of Sufism in the country. It has in recent years been challenged by more hard-line forms of Islam.


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