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Pakistani police official raises death toll in bomb blast at Shiite mosque to 35

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ISLAMABAD — A police official says the death toll from a blast at a Shiite mosque in southern Pakistan has risen to 35.

Sain Rakhio Mirani, the deputy inspector general for Shikarpur district where the blast occurred, says the explosion went off as worshippers were gathering for midday prayers on Friday.

He says the bodies of 31 people were brought to Shikarpur hospital and another four people died on the way to a hospital in the nearby city of Sukkur.

Shikarpur is in Sindh province, roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the port city of Karachi.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A bomb blast ripped through a mosque in Pakistan belonging to members of the Shiite minority sect of Islam just as worshippers were gathering for Friday prayers, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Dr. Shaukat Ali Memon, who heads the hospital in Shikarpur where the dead and wounded were brought, gave the death toll to Pakistan's state television. He said that 50 people, many severely wounded, were also brought to the hospital. Patients have also been shifted to nearby hospitals in the cities of Larkana and Sukkur, he said.

In a sign of how serious the explosion was, Memon appealed to residents to donate blood for the wounded.

Pakistani television showed area residents and worshippers frantically ferrying the dead and wounded to the hospital.

Initial reports suggest that it was a bomb planted in the area, Sain Rakhio Mirani, the top police official in the district told Pakistan's Geo TV.

Shikarpur is in Sindh province, roughly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the port city of Karachi.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Sunni Muslim extremists have often targeted religious institutions of Shiites, whom they do not consider to be true Muslims.

While Karachi has been the site of repeated bombings blamed on militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, the northern part of Sindh province has generally been much more peaceful.

But recent years have seen a trend of extremist organizations increasingly active in the central and northern part of the province, according to a new report by the United States Institute of Peace.

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Khan reported from Islamabad.

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