A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up outside a key Shiite leader's house in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Friday, injuring the cleric and killing a male relative, police said.
Updated at 8.10 pm
KARACHI: A senior Pakistani Shiite leader and his young nephew were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the cleric's house in Karachi on Friday, sparking fears of sectarian revenge attacks.
The attacker hugged Hassan Turabi, Sindh province president of a Shiite party Islami Tehrik, before detonating explosives which were hidden under a long black gown, said senior police investigator Manzoor Mughal.
Karachi authorities put the city on red alert and stepped up patrols by police and paramilitary forces, as well as contacting other Shiite leaders to prevent clashes with rival Sunni Muslims.
Turabi had been attending an anti-Israel rally in central Karachi and was returning to his home in the Shiite-dominated eastern Abbas Town district when he was murdered.
"Three police bodyguards tried to stop the bomber as he embraced Hassan Turabi, then he blew up the explosives which had hundreds of small nails inside," Mughal said. "It was a suicide attack."
Turabi's nephew Ali and the bomber were killed instantly while the cleric died of his injuries in hospital, Mughal said. The bodyguards were all seriously injured.
"Hassan Turabi is dead, we tried to save his life," a doctor at the city's Patel Hospital who gave his name as Ejaz said. An AFP correspondent saw the white-bearded cleric's bloodstained body at the hospital.
His nephew's corpse, in a striped t-shirt, could be seen shortly after the blast lying in a narrow whitewashed alleyway outside the house.
Next to him was the bomber's severed head with its eyes still open, along with an unexploded hand grenade.
"There was a huge bomb blast outside our home and a cousin of mine has died while my father is being treated in hospital," the cleric's son, Murtaza Turabi, said before his father died.
Turabi escaped another assassination attempt without injury on April 6 when a bomb hidden under a fruit cart exploded as he was getting into his car outside his home. Two bodyguards and a passerby were hurt in that incident.
A crowd of 300 people, many of them crying, shouted slogans outside the hospital after Turabi's death.
Hundreds more waited for his body to be brought back to his house in an area which has seen frequent sectarian attacks blamed on militants from the majority Sunni Muslim community.
"We have contacted elders and Shiite leaders, who themselves are appealing to their people for restraint and to remain peaceful," Karachi police chief Niaz Siddiqui said.
Turabi's party is a member of the country's main alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal.