KARACHI, Pakistan – A car bomb exploded outside a mosque on Sunday, killing 45 people and wounding more than 140 others in a Shiite Muslim-dominated neighborhood in the southern Pakistan city of Karachi – the third mass casualty attack on the minority sect in the country this year.
No one has taken responsibility for the bombing, but Shiite Muslims have been increasingly targeted by Sunni militant groups in Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub and site of years of political, sectarian and ethnic violence, as well as other parts of the country.
The bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque as people were leaving evening prayers in Pakistan’s largest city. Initial reports suggested the bomb was rigged to a motorcycle, but a top police official, Shabbir Sheikh, said later that an estimated 220 pounds of explosives was planted in a car.
Several buildings nearby were engulfed in flames.
Men and women wailed and ambulances rushed to the scene where residents tried to find victims buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings. The blast left a crater that was 2 yards wide and more than 4 feet deep.
A Pakistani surgeon said today the death toll climbed to 45 as more victims died overnight.
Dr. Jalil Qadir said 146 people were also wounded in the explosion. At least 32 of them are still in serious condition.
Sunni militant groups have stepped up attacks in the past year against Shiite Muslims, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million people. Sunni militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban view Shiites as heretics.
It was the third large-scale attack against members of the minority sect so far this year. Two brazen attacks against a Shiite Hazara community in southwestern city of Quetta killed nearly 200 people since Jan 10.
Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies helped nurture Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Iran, which is mostly Shiite.
Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to attack Shiites.