3 bombs kill 18 at Lahore march in Pakistan

150 wounded in string of hits by Sunni rebels

A man attempts to escape from explosions as protesters burn vehicles in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday. Three suicide bombs ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, police said. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts and said the attackers would not escape justice. (Associated Press)A man attempts to escape from explosions as protesters burn vehicles in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday. Three suicide bombs ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, police said. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts and said the attackers would not escape justice. (Associated Press)
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LAHORE, Pakistan | Three bombs ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 18 people and wounding at least 150 others, officials said.

The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shiites they consider infidels. Allied with al Qaeda and the Taliban, the bombers also are seeking to destabilize Pakistan’s U.S.-backed government.

The blasts were the first major attacks since Pakistan was hit by devastating floods more than a month ago. Lahore, the country’s political capital and home to much of its military elite, has been regularly targeted by militants over the past two years.

The bombs exploded at three separate sites Wednesday evening as 35,000 Shiites marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the caliph Ali, one of Shiite Islam’s most respected holy men.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts and said the attackers would not escape justice.

After the blasts, the marchers erupted in fury, setting fire to a police station, another police facility, two police cars and three motorcycles, said Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer. Police lobbed tear gas canisters at the crowd and fired shots in the air to disperse the assailants, he said.

The first blast was a time bomb that exploded in the street near a well-known Shiite building, Mr. Hameed said. Footage of that explosion shown on Geo television showed a small blast erupting amid a crowd of people on the street followed by a large plume of smoke.

Minutes later, with the streets in chaos, a male suicide bomber who appeared about 18 years old tried to force his way into an area where food was being prepared for the marchers to break the traditional Ramadan fast and exploded, Mr. Hameed said. Soon after, another suicide bomber detonated himself at an intersection near the end of the procession.

The blasts killed 18 people and wounded more than 150 others, said Sajjad Bhutta, a top local government official.

Hours earlier, three people were wounded in a shooting near a similar Shiite procession in the southern city of Karachi, but senior police officer Iqbal Mahmood said the incident did not target the march.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near a police vehicle in the town of Shabqadar in northwest Pakistan, killing one passer-by and wounding 15 people including one police officer, police officer Nisar Khan said.

The bombings came after Pakistani army jets and helicopters targeted militant hide-outs near the Afghan border, killing 60 people identified as insurgents or their family members, including children, said security officials and a witness.

The attacks occurred Tuesday and Wednesday in different parts of the region.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures because the area is too dangerous for outsiders to visit.

The raids Tuesday took place in several villages in Teerah Valley in the Khyber region and killed 45 people, the officials said. One official said some vehicles rigged with explosives had also been destroyed. He could not say how many.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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