World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan's Interior Ministry on Thursday suspended mobile phone services across the country, fearing possible terrorist attacks that might be carried out via remote-control devices on Shiite processions marking Ashura, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram.
"Mobile phone services will remain suspended in over 80 sensitive cities including the capital [Islamabad] for different time periods due to security reasons on Thursday and Friday," Interior Ministry spokesman Omer Hameed told Anadolu Agency.
From early Thursday morning to late Friday night, cellular service will be suspended in the commercial capital Karachi, the provincial capital cities of Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore, and in other cities too.
Pillion riding - riding on the backseat of a motorcycle - has also been banned for the same two days in several cities.
"Security backed by aerial monitoring [of processions] has been put on high alert in several sensitive cities," Hameed added.
Usually, there is one main procession marking Ashura, which in Pakistan falls on Friday, in each big city.
Typically, small processions set out from different locations, eventually amassing into one main procession before marching.
In Karachi, for example, the traditional Ashura procession sets out from the historical Nishter Park and culminates at the Hussenia Irania Mosque.
Ashura processions end at sunset.
Shiite scout organizations, assisted by government security forces, take care of security arrangements.
Earlier this morning, police claimed to have killed six suspected militants from the hardline Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group.
The men are accused of involvement in past attacks on Shiites in the western part of Karachi.
"They were planning to attack Shia processions in Karachi on the 9th and 10th of Muharram," Aslam Khan, a Karachi police official, told the media.
Sectarian violence in Sunni-majority Pakistan has surged in recent years, with both Sunnis and Shiites being targeted by suicide attacks.
The number of Shiites killed in such bombings is much greater than the number of Sunni victims.
Around 85 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people are Sunni Muslims, while Shiites make up roughly 10 percent of the populace.Last Mod: 14 Kasım 2013, 11:21