Taliban suicide bomber kills 23 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — A Taliban suicide bomber struck a Shi’ite Muslim procession near Pakistan’s capital, killing 23 people in the latest of a series of bombings targeting Shi’ites during the holiest month of the year for the sect, officials said Thursday.

The bomber attacked the procession about midnight Wednesday in the city of Rawalpindi, located next to the capital, Islamabad, said Deeba Shahnaz, a state rescue official. At least 62 people were wounded, including six policemen. Eight of the dead and wounded were children, Shahnaz said.

Police tried to stop and search the bomber as he joined the procession, but he ran past them and detonated his explosives, said senior police official Haseeb Shah. The attacker was also carrying grenades, some of which exploded, said Shah.

‘‘I think the explosives combined with grenades caused the big loss,’’ Shah said.

Local TV footage showed the scene of the bombing littered with body parts and smeared with blood. Shi’ites beat their heads and chests in anguish.

‘‘It was like the world was ending,’’ said one of the victims, Nasir Shah.

Earlier Wednesday, the Taliban set off two bombs within minutes outside a Shi’ite mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing one person and wounding 15 others, senior ­police official Javed Odho said.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attacks in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

‘‘We have a war of belief with Shi’ites,’’ Ahsan said . ‘‘They are blasphemers. We will continue attacking them.’’

The Sunni-Shi’ite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Mohammed dates to the seventh century.

The country has a history of sectarian violence carried out by both extremist Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims against the opposite sect.

The government increases security every Muharram to protect Shi’ites.