At least three were killed in an explosion hitting a procession of Shiite Muslims in central Pakistan.
Pakistani police say a powerful roadside bomb has exploded, killing at least three and wounding over 50 people. Two of the injured are in critical condition.
Videos circulating on social media showed police and ambulances rushing toward the site of the explosion.
Several wounded people were seen waiting for help along a road in the deeply conservative city of Bahawalnagar in the eastern Punjab province, where the attack took place.
Witnesses said tensions are now high in the city. Dozens of Shiites protested the attack and demanded retribution.
No government statement has been issued so far. However, an immediate investigation has been opened into the incident.
Communications in the area were difficult as authorities had suspended mobile phone service across the country for security reasons.
A Shiite leader, Khawar Shafqat, confirmed the bombing in a statement.
He said that the explosion took place when a procession of Shiite Muslims passed through a congested neighborhood of Muhajir Colony.
He condemned the attack and asked government to further step up security at processions.
But, he provided no further details about those responsible for the attack.
The Ashoura Festival
The annual procession mourns the seventh century death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s most beloved saints.
For Shiites, the remembrance of Hussein is an emotional event. It sees many believers weep over his death at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq.
The Ashura processions are held across the word
During the Ashura processions, many participants beat their backs with chains, flagellating themselves in a symbolic expression of regret for not being able to help Hussein before his martyrdom.
Shiites are a minority in predominant Sunni Muslim Pakistan. However, extremist Sunni Muslims view them as apostates deserving of death.