POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 25, 2010
MULTAN, Pakistan — A bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded at the gate of a famous Sufi shrine in central Pakistan during morning prayers Monday, killing at least five people, officials said.
The blast at the Farid Shakar Ganj shrine in Punjab province was the latest in a string of attacks targeting Sufi shrines in Pakistan. Islamist militants often target Sufis, whose mystical practices clash with their hardline interpretations of Islam.
The dead from Monday’s attack included at least one woman, said Maher Aslam Hayat, a senior government official in the Pak Pattan district where the shrine is located. At least 13 others were wounded in the explosion, he said.
The blast damaged several shops outside the shrine, said Hayat. But the shrine itself, which is dedicated to a 12th century Sufi saint, was largely undamaged, he said.
After the attack, a top Sufi scholar, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, criticized the government for not doing enough to protect the Sufi population. Pakistan is 95 percent Muslim, and the majority practice Sufi-influenced Islam.
“Our rulers are too busy serving foreign masters and have not prioritized protecting the people and sacred places from terrorists,” said Rehman.
Earlier this month, two suspected suicide bombers attacked a beloved Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, killing at least eight people and wounding 65 others.
A suicide attack in July killed 47 people at the nation’s most revered Sufi shrine, Data Darbar in the eastern city of Lahore. That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians.
The government has waged a sustained military campaign against militants based in its semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border who have declared war against the Pakistani state. But militant violence remains a problem.
A roadside bomb struck a passenger van in the Orakzai tribal region on Monday, killing three people and wounding two others, said Aurangzeb Khan, a local government administrator. The blast tore apart the vehicle, which was passing near the village of Tanda.
The Pakistani military declared victory in Orakzai in June after pounding Taliban militants in the area for months with airstrikes and artillery. But militant attacks and military operations in the area have continued.
Army helicopter gunships pounded suspected militant hideouts in Orakzai on Sunday, killing 15 alleged insurgents, said Jehanzeb Khan, another local government official.
Associated Press writers Babar Dogar in Lahore and Hussain Afzal in Parachinar contributed to this report.