|Damaged shops are seen at the suicide blast site in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on early Nov. 22, 2012. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Death toll of the suicide blast that ripped through a Shiite Muslims procession in Rawalpindi on Wednesday night, rises to 20, local media and police said on Thursday.
Deputy Commissioner Officer Saqib Zaffar said that at least 46 people including three policemen were also injured in the blast that happened when a suicide bomber aged between 20 to 25 years old blew up himself right in the middle of the gathering.
The bomber struck the procession of over 1500 Shiite Muslims soon after it left Qasr-e-Shabbir shrine in Misrial Road, located at the outskirts of the city.
Following the blast, the police also recovered seven hand grenades from the explosion site.
Bomb Disposal Squad said that an estimated four to five kilograms of lethal explosives were used in the attack.
Emergency was declared in all the local hospitals and the injured were shifted to military hospital, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Hospital, District Headquarter Hospital and Holy Family Hospital.
The hospital sources said that the death toll may further rise as several among the injured are in a critical condition, adding that there are many women and kids among the injured.
Wednesday night's blast was the third sectarian attack targeting the Shiite Muslims in the country in less than four hours. At least two people were killed and 15 others injured in twin blasts that hit the country's southern port city of Karachi earlier at about 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
Local analyst Hassan Askari Rizwi said that the three sectarian attacks in less than four hours in Pakistan indicates that extremism and sectarian confrontation are strengthening their position in the country which is a big challenge for the local intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Maulana Ameen Shaheedi, the leader of Punjab Shiite organization said that Pakistan army should take charge of all the processions of Muharram in the country to ensure absolute security for the Shiite Muslims.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The rescue teams shifted the suicide bomber's head to the district headquarters hospital.
Following the attack, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that additional police force would be deployed in the Shiite Muslims procession in Muharram.
The blast happened on the eve of international business summit to be held in Islamabad on Thursday. The government also announced a public holiday on Thursday to ensure fool-proof security for the conference.