. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gunmen Hit Shiites in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Armed men opened fire on Shiite Muslim worshippers during a religious procession in a city in southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 150 others, authorities said. The city mayor declared an immediate curfew.

Officials reported an explosion and gunfire in a congested area of Quetta, the main city in southwest Baluchistan province, as a procession of hundreds of Shiite Muslims marking Ashoura, the most important day in the Muslim holy month of Muharram, passed by.

Soon after, a Sunni Muslim mosque, a television network office and several shops were set on fire as Shiites rioted in parts of the city, and an exchange of gunfire took place near the scene of the initial attack, police said.

Qamar Zaman, an assistant police inspector in Quetta, said that 29 people had been confirmed dead and more than 150 injured. Two senior federal government officials confirmed the death toll on condition their names not be used.

Government officials said the carnage was an effort by extremist groups to destabilize the country. President Pervez Musharraf has become a staunch ally of the U.S. war on terrorism, earning the ire of Islamic fundamentalists. He narrowly escaped two assassination attempts in December.

"Obviously, the purpose of this attack was to create unrest," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. "This is a very sad incident and we condemn it."