KARACHI - A bomb blast in a sensitive area of the restive city Sunday night killed three people and wounded more than 18 others, aggravating the sense of insecurity among the citizens in the month of Muharram.

Police and witnesses said the bomb that exploded in Abbas Town, situated near Abul Hassan Isphani Road in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, was planted on a motorcycle parked outside a milk shop near the Jama Masjid Imambargah Mustafa.

Women, children and five Rangers personnel were among the injured. The bodies and the injured were first taken to nearby Patel Hospital and then shifted to different other hospitals. The death toll was being feared to rise as hospitals sources said some of them were in critical condition.

The powerful explosion also damaged nearby shops, electricity polls and several vehicles. Eyewitness said a young man came on the milk shop apparently to buy milk but left his bike at the spot. The blast occurred shortly after the suspect left the site.

After the bomb explosion, scores of people belonging to the Shia community gathered there and staged a protest on Abul Isphani Road. The angered protesters also restored to indiscriminate aerial firing, resulting in a clash with the Rangers, who were trying to keep the situation under control. Firing by armed protesters outside the Patel Hospital was also reported. Initially, the protesters prevented the police and Rangers from inspecting the blast site but they were given access after negotiations.

Bomb Disposal Squad also reached the site and after initial findings they told that the remote-controlled bomb weighing around five kilograms was local made and it contained pellets. Had a Suzuki van not parked close to the motorcycle carrying the bomb, many more lives would have been lost, they added.

Police said they had traced the ownership of the motorcycle but the registration had been faked. IGP Sindh Fayyaz Leghari constituted four-member police investigation team headed by Karachi Additional IG Iqbal Mehmood to probe the case and asked them to submit the report within three days.

Earlier, Additional IG Iqbal said that Imambargah was the potential target of the attacker but due to the strict security measures, he failed to reach the target. The officer feared that terrorists could attempt more attacks during Muharram, adding that the law enforcement agencies have already been put on high alert.

DIG Shahid Hayat also visited the blast site and said that as Abbas Town is among the sensitive-declared areas, the police commandos along with Rangers personnel had been already deployed there to provide security to the Imambargah and the mourners.

Tension prevailed in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and various other Shia dominated areas where unidentified armed men continued indiscriminate firing, forcing closure of businesses. Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen of the Shias condemned the incident and termed the attack a failure of the government and law enforcement agencies. MWM leaders said that the blast was a conspiracy to erupt sectarian clashes.