- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

KARACHI, Pakistan — Angry Shi’ite Muslim youths set an American food outlet, a bank and scores of vehicles on fire in Karachi yesterday after funeral prayers were said for a leading cleric killed in a suicide bombing a day earlier.

The violence occurred after more than 5,000 mourners attended prayers for Allama Hassan Turabi, a leader of the Islami Tehreek Pakistan party and member of the main Islamist alliance, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

Mr. Turabi and a nephew died on Friday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of his house.

As Mr. Turabi’s coffin was taken for burial in an ambulance, small mobs of young Shi’ites went on a rampage, setting a Pizza Hut restaurant, a bank and scores of cars and motorbikes ablaze.

“Fourteen people were trapped inside [the Pizza Hut], but we rescued them. Luckily, nobody was injured,” said Mushtaq Shah, a deputy inspector general of police.

Karachi has borne the brunt of sectarian violence between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shi’ites that has killed thousands of people since the 1980s.

Police stepped up security at mosques, Western consulates and fast-food franchises in the city before the funeral. A group of mourners scuffled with police as they tried to attack a police van. Gunfire was also heard, but Mr. Shah said there were no reports of casualties from any part of the city.

The motive for the attack is still unknown, and no group has claimed responsibility for the cleric’s killing, though police said it bore the hallmarks of Sunni Muslim militants.

“We have not come to any conclusion yet, but one key focus of the investigation is LJ,” said senior police investigator Niaz Ahmad Khosso, referring to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shi’ite group whose members have ties with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. “This is because the explosives used are similar to those used in at least three previous LJ attacks,” he said.

Police have released a picture of the bomber, whose head was blown off in the attack, and were trying to identify him.

Mr. Turabi had survived an assassination attempt in April when his car was hit by a remote-controlled bomb.

“It is a barbaric act, and it could be part of a campaign against Shi’ite and religious people,” said Allama Sajid Ali Naqvi, an Islami Tehrik leader, who led the prayers.

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