ISLAMABAD Pakistan’s interior minister said Friday that the government will suspend cell-phone service in most parts of the country over the next two days to prevent attacks against Shiite Muslims during a key religious commemoration.
Militants often detonate bombs using cell phones and the Pakistani government has implemented similar service suspensions in the past, but not on such a wide scale.
Saturday and Sunday are the most important days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, which is especially important to Shiites.
Pakistani Shiites on Sunday observe the Ashoura, commemorating the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.
The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Muhammad dates back to that era. Different parts of the Muslim world mark Ashoura on different days — neighboring Afghanistan, for example, observes it Saturday.
Sunni extremists often target Shiites during Muharram, especially on Ashoura, frequently using cell phones. Several bombings targeting Shiites earlier this week killed more than a dozen people.