Peshawar: At least nine persons, mostly Shias, were killed and 25 others injured in a suspected suicide attack in a hotel in the restive northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar today
The blast occurred in the Shia-dominated Kocha Risaldar area of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Most of the dead were Shias from Kurram tribal region, which has long been affected by sectarian violence.
Police officials said they suspected the blast was triggered by a suicide bomber.
Kocha Risaldar has many Imambargahs and Imambaras.
Earlier in the day, a prominent Shia leader was shot dead in the city in an apparent sectarian attack.
There has been a sharp rise in sectarian violence in Pakistan since a deadly clash between Sunnis and Shias in Rawalpindi in November.
Police officer Rizwan Khan said that the hotel is frequented mostly by Shias who visit Imambargah Alamdar next door. Most of the dead and wounded were Shias, he added.
The blast came as talks between government negotiators and representatives from the Pakistani Taliban designed to end years of fighting in the northwest were delayed.
Confirming the death toll, Superintendent Police (SP) City Muhammad Faisal Mukhtar said it was a suicide attack.
Provincial Health Minister Shaukat Yousufzai told reporters that eight people were killed and 42 others injured in the suicide bombing. “Six of the dead have been identified,” he said.
Injured in reportedly critical condition were taken to Lady Reading Hospital where an emergency had been imposed.
Jamil Shah, media coordinator at LRH earlier said that six dead bodies and 32 injured have been brought in the hospital. Women and children were among the injured, he said.
SHIA LEADER GUNNED DOWN:
Earlier, a prominent Shia leader was shot dead in the Qissa Khwani area, sparking a protest outside a hospital where his body was taken.
The killing comes just weeks after a Shia scholar was gunned down in the same city.
“Haji Sardar Ali was shot dead in the morning in Qissa Khwani bazaar,” senior police official Faisal Mukhtar said.
Ali headed the local branch of the Tehreek Nafaz-e-Fiqah-e-Jafaria.
Zaheerul Islam, the deputy commissioner of Peshawar, confirmed the incident.
“Haji Sardar Ali owned a general store in (the) bazaar. He was going to his shop when unknown gunmen shot him dead,” he said.
Ali was rushed to the city’s Lady Reading Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival, Mukhtar said.
Around a hundred Shias gathered outside the hospital and chanted slogans demanding the arrest of the attackers.
There has been no claim of responsibility so far.
“It looks like a sectarian target killing but the police are still investigating the case,” Mukhtar said.
Scholar Allama Alim Al-Musvi was shot while walking to the mosque in the same bazaar on January 20.