Suspected suicide bomber hits Shiite Muslim procession, murdering six, sparking riots

An apparent suicide bombing ripped through a Shiite Muslim procession Thursday in northwestern Pakistan , killing six people, injuring 40 and sparking riots during the Muslim sect's most important holiday, officials said. Army troops took control of the town and a curfew was imposed as the Shiites responded by burning shops and cars in Hangu, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of the capital, Islamabad, district police chief Ayub Khan said.

"We thought the bomb was detonated by remote control, but now it appears to be a suicide attack," Khan said.

The explosion hit a procession of hundreds of people in a bazaar soon after it emerged from the main Shiite mosque, said a senior Interior Ministry official, who asked not to be named because he's not authorized to speak to the media.

"The situation is very grave there. People are fighting. Police are trying to control them. Our priority is to get the injured to hospital, but angry and emotional processionists are attacking police vehicles and even ambulances," the official said.

Six deaths were confirmed and 40 were injured, a senior intelligence official said, also on condition on anonymity.

The attack targeted Shiites observing Ashoura, the most revered religious holiday in their faith. The event marks the 7th century death of Imam Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussain's death led to a rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis over who should succeed the prophet.

Security was tight for the holiday because it has been marred by violence in recent years. Sunni Muslims the majority in Pakistan have been blamed for attacking the Shiites during the event, which involves religious processions across the country.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, "I condemn this attack in the strongest terms. This is a conspiracy to trigger clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. No Muslim can do this thing. Whoever has done this thing is a terrorist", reports the AP.

D.M.