Blast Kills 25 at Shiite Mosque in Pakistan

A suicide attacker detonated a huge bomb inside a crowded Shiite Muslim mosque in eastern Pakistan during Friday prayers, killing at least 25 people and injuring dozens, officials said.

Experts defused a second 11-pound bomb outside the same mosque shortly afterward in this city about 145 miles southeast of Islamabad (search), police said.

Police said hundreds of people were inside the Zainabia mosque at the time of the blast, which left body parts scattered inside.

Hundreds of angry Shiites went on a rampage after the attack, and troops were deployed at the mosque and at hospitals to restore order, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search), a key U.S. ally, said the attack showed that "terrorists have no religion and are enemies of mankind." He renewed his government's commitment to root them out.

No group claimed responsibility, but one Shiite leader speculated it was in retaliation for the killing of a top Al Qaeda suspect by police less than a week ago. The government claimed that killing had "broken the back" of the terror network in Pakistan.

Witnesses said they saw a man with a briefcase enter the mosque shortly before the blast and the briefcase exploded, said police chief Nisar Ahmed.

"We are almost certain it was a suicide attack," he told The Associated Press.

Bomb disposal experts were examining remains of the briefcase, and their initial assessment was that it contained explosives, he said.

Police in Sialkot (search) said at least 25 people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded, although mosque official Zulifquar Ali claimed about 30 people had died.

Shortly after the blast, bomb disposal experts found and defused the second device, said Mohammed Nazir, commander of the bomb disposal squad.

The briefcase was seen outside the mosque, where hundreds of people were protesting, and could have killed dozens had it not been defused, he told the AP.

The blast left a crater inside the mosque, severely damaged walls and shattered windows, another police official said.

Many of the injured suffered burns, witnesses said, and TV newscasts showed bleeding and charred victims taken to hospitals in pickup trucks,

Ahmed said a mob initially prevented police from entering, pelting them with bricks and stones, and wrecking property, torching vehicles and shouting anti-government slogans.

"I'm trying to handle the situation. I'm holding talks with their elders. I'm telling them we've come to help them," Ahmed said.

Murid Hussain, who lives near the mosque, said human remains were scattered inside the mosque and smoke was everywhere. One of his relatives, who was injured in the attack, only remembered hearing a blast and then waking up in hospital.

"This is the work of enemies of Pakistan and enemies of Islam, and we condemn it," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told AP in Islamabad.

Mosques of Pakistan's Shiite minority have often been targeted in sectarian violence with majority Sunni Muslims.

Pakistan has been a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. That support has triggered a backlash by Islamic militants, who have launched repeated attacks across Pakistan.

The Al Qaeda operative killed in a shootout last weekend, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, was believed to be behind the kidnapping and beheading in 2002 of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (search) and two failed assassination attempts on Musharraf that killed 17 others in December.

Officials said Farooqi recruited for Al Qaeda in Pakistan and was responsible for other bombings against Shiite Muslims. He also was a member of the Sunni Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (search).

A Shiite leader in the main southern city of Karachi said Friday's bombing was retaliation for Farooqi's killing.

"Definitely, it was the work of the friends of Farooqi," cleric Allama Hassan Turabi (search) told AP. "The people who planned this attack perhaps don't understand that we are not supporters of America. ... We are also against America."

The last major bombings against Shiite mosques were in Karachi in May, when two separate attacks three weeks apart killed more than 40 people and caused a wave of sectarian unrest. Authorities suspected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was responsible.