Pakistan's interior minister appealed for calm on Tuesday in the country's commercial capital Karachi, where shopowners surveyed gutted premises a day after a suicide bomber killed 43 people and triggered a city-centre riot.
"I appeal to the people of Karachi to stay peaceful. This is the economic hub of Pakistan," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after attending the funeral of a paramilitary soldier who authorities said pounced on the suicide bomber.
The provincial government of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, declared a public holiday, although banks opened. Public transport was out of service and most shops were shut after religious and political parties called for a day of mourning.
"Our office and the whole building is completely burnt. Everything has been destroyed," said Saleem Khan, who runs a car rental business along what is normally a busy road.
Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed told Reuters initial investigations showed the suicide bomber was aged between 18 and 20, and that he used 8-9 kilograms of explosives. He said at least 500 shops had been set ablaze.
Provincial health secretary Hashim Raza Zaidi said the death toll had risen to 43, while 52 people were still in hospitals.
Some grieved before attending funerals. Others said their lives had been shattered.
"It's a huge loss for the families of those killed. But what about our families? We are alive and have lost everything," said Mohammad Shams, owner of a shop which makes plastic.
Funeral prayers were to be heard later Tuesday at the Imambargah Shiite mosque close to the scene of the attack, where Malik vowed the government would investigate the bomb and compensate the victims.
"Police arrested more than 100 people in past months who were plotting to launch attacks in Karachi," he told reporters.
Mayor Mustafa Kamal said losses could run into billions of rupees (millions of dollars) and said the government would do everything to compensate traders.
Last Mod: 29 Aralık 2009, 12:37