July 14, 2006

Suicide bomber kills Pakistani Shi’ite cleric

By Imtiaz Shah

KARACHI (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed a leading
Pakistani Muslim Shi'ite cleric, Allama Hassan Turabi, and
three others, including himself in an attack on Friday in the
volatile city of Karachi, provincial government officials said.

"Allama Turabi is dead," Salahuddin Haider, a spokesman for
the Sindh government, said from the hospital ward where the
mortally wounded cleric had been rushed after the attack
outside his home.

Karachi has been the scene of bloody rivalry between
Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shi'ites since
the 1980s, and the provincial government immediately ordered
increased security.

"It was a targeted killing, aimed at disturbing the peace
and harmony of Karachi. Let's hope and pray that the situation
remains calm," Haider said.

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

A young nephew of the cleric and a bodyguard also died,
along with the bomber, in the attack, city police chief Niaz
Siddiqui told Reuters.

Haider said the suicide bomber struck after an accomplice
threw a bomb that did not explode.

"The bomb has been recovered by the police. The bomber
managed to escape," he said.

Television news channel ARYone showed pictures of a severed
head lying by a wall. Suicide bombers' heads are often blown
off by the upward force of explosives strapped to their body.

"We have found body parts of the bomber outside the
allama's house," said Mushtaq Shah, a deputy inspector of

On hearing of their leader's death, around 100 Shi'ites
cried and beat their chests and chanted religious hymns in the
hospital and shouted "Down with America" -- a common knee-jerk
response among some Pakistani Shi'as to violence against them.

"Security in the city has obviously been very, very
tightened. We strictly condemn this attack," Haider said.

(With reporting by Aamir Ashraf and Faisal Aziz)

(Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore, editing by Roger Crabb;
Karachi newsroom; Reuters Messaging:
[email protected]; Karachi newsroom, tel:
+92-21 568 5192, fax: +92-21 567 3428))