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Shias come under violent attack in Pakistan

November 22, 2012 15:04 IST

A volley of attacks across Pakistan has put a considerable question mark over that nation's security preparedness days before the mourning period of Muharram, reports Tahir Ali from Islamabad.

In a day of sectarian violence across Pakistan, targeted against the Shia community, 34 people were killed and 77 were injured in separate incidents on Wednesday.

The violence was witnessed in all four provinces of the country.

Although such incidents have become an everyday affair in Pakistan, the worrying factor is the ease with which the terrorists seem to be infiltrating even high-security areas to carry out their attacks.

In two separate incidents, processions organised by Shia Muslims were attacked despite heavy security, while in three other incidents, the security forces themselves were attacked.

The first incident took place in Quetta, Balochistan, where seven people, including three soldiers, were killed and over 20 people seriously injured when a bomb ripped through a Pakistan army vehicle in a high-security zone in Shahbaz town.

The attack has put a considerable question mark over the security preparedness of the provincial administration days before the mourning period of Muharram.

The blast occurred outside City Hall, close to the Fauji Foundation School and the office of the Balochistan Public Services Commission. The blast destroyed shops, vehicles and buildings in the area and smashed windowpanes of buildings nearby.

The second incident took place in Shangla district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the terrorists targeted a police vehicle with a roadside bomb.

'One policeman was killed while three policemen sustained injuries,' a government official said.

The Shangla incident was followed by another attack on a police van in Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where four policemen were killed and two sustained injuries in firing by terrorists.

Tehrik-e-Taliban spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan told Rediff.com that the attacks were carried out by members of his organisation.

"We are against the secular system and secular leadership of this country," Ihsan said. "These policemen are protecting them, so they are on our target list. We will continue targeting policemen till the government's policies are changed."

In Karachi, two successive blasts rocked Orangi Town, located near an Imambargah where Shia mourners had congregated. Two bombs went off within 40 minutes of each other outside the Imambargah, leaving at least two people dead and 16 injured.

Initially, the police termed the first blast as a suicide attack, but later the bomb disposal squad clarified that bombs had been planted at the site.

'As the security forces and rescue workers were rushing the victims of the first attack to hospitals, a second bomb exploded at the same place, wounding several people,' Omer Khitab, a senior police officer, said.

On Wednesday evening, a suicide bomber struck a Muharram procession in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, killing 20 people and injuring scores of others.

Speaking to Rediff.com, TTP spokesperson Ihsan claimed responsibility for the Karachi and Rawalpindi attacks and warned that the Taliban will continue to carry out such attacks.

"People belonging to the Shia community are infidel and blasphemous and we will not spare them. We pay homage to those Taliban who sacrificed their lives in Wednesday's attacks. You will see further attacks in the coming days," Ihsan warned.

"If the interior minister increases security, then there would be more suicide attacks," Ihsan added. "No one can stop our fidayeen (suicide bombers)."

Human Rights Watch has urged the Pakistan government to ensure the protection of Shia Muslims from sectarian attacks during the holy month of Muharram.

Ali Dayan Hasan, director, Human Rights Watch Pakistan, said, "Shias in Pakistan should be able to participate in processions without fearing another attack. The Pakistani authorities need to address the severe danger faced by the Shia population with all necessary security measures. They can start by arresting extremist group members responsible for past attacks."

The violence erupted a day before Pakistan hosts a summit of D8 nations -- to be attended by the leaders of eight developing countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey -- in Islamalabad.

Some leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have already arrived in the Pakistan capital.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the attacks are designed to create the impression that the government is incapable of providing adequate security for the summit.

'We are trying to build relationships and attract investments for Pakistan,' Malik said, 'but these groups are trying to derail the process.'

Tahir Ali In Islamabad