KARACHI: Police stepped up patrols in Karachi on Friday to try and prevent renewed violence after angry mobs rampaged through the city in the aftermath of a suicide attack on a Sufi shrine that left eight dead and 65 injured.
The attack by two suicide bombers on the shrine was a stark reminder of the threat posed by militants to Pakistan.
Mobs took to the streets after the Thursday evening attack, firing weapons, setting tires on fire and torching at least two buses.
The city of more than 18 million was quiet early Friday, as most traffic remained off the road to avoid new possible outbursts of violence.
Police Chief Azad Khan said he had increased patrols to keep the peace, while a special team of senior investigators had been sent to the scene of the attack to investigate.
The Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine was attacked at the busiest time of the week when thousands typically visit to pray, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of the saint.
One bomb went off as the suspected attacker was going through the metal detector before a long staircase leading to the main shrine area, said Babar Khattak, the top police official in Sindh province. A second blast followed 10 seconds later, farther ahead of the metal detector, he said.
The explosions left the shrine splattered with blood and flesh, and the dead included two children.
”I heard a huge bang and smoke billowed from there,” said Mohibullah Khan, a 38-year-old manual labourer who was about to visit the shrine after evening prayers at a nearby mosque when it was attacked.
”I ran back toward the mosque and seconds after heard another big explosion. Then I moved to help the wounded and put six or seven of the crying ones in ambulances and police vehicles.”
Pakistan is 95 per cent Muslim, and the majority practice Sufi-influenced Islam, whose more mystical practices are rejected by the Taliban and allied extremists, making Sufi sites a frequent target of militant groups.
In July, suicide bombers in Lahore attacked the Data Darbar shrine, killing 47 people and wounding 180.
That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians. In the aftermath, even amid fury against militants, many also blamed the US presence in Afghanistan for fuelling violence in their country.
After Thursday’s attack, condemnations poured in from across Pakistan, including from President Asif Ali Zardari, who was staying in the city at the time.
”We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land,” Zardari aide Farahnaz Ispahani said in an e-mail.