Bombings in Pakistan kill at least 100
A double bombing of a snooker club capped one of the bloodiest days in Pakistan for many months yesterday, leaving more than 100 people dead and hundreds injured in four attacks.
The death toll was shockingly high even by the bloody standards of Pakistan, which is beset by separatist insurgencies and Islamic militants at war with the state.
The surge in violence comes at a time of heightened political tension as the preparations of the coalition government to step down and fight elections have been threatened by a religious cleric who plans to bring a massive protest march to the capital on Monday.
Tahir-ul-Qadri’s march, which the religious leader says will turn Islamabad into Tahrir Square, is billed as a protest against corruption and a demand for clean elections, but many politicians fear the real purpose is to find a pretext to delay the polls.
Yesterday Quetta, the south-eastern city that is home to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban and groups fighting for the province of Baluchistan to become an independent state, was rocked by two attacks.
A security checkpoint was targeted in the first blast in the morning, killing 12 and injuring 25, according to the province’s chief minister.
A little known group called the United Baluch Army claimed responsibility.
In the evening another 81 people lost their lives and 110 were wounded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up within 10 minutes of each other in a packed building where young men go to play snooker.
The second blast appeared to be deliberately designed to kill the medics, anguished relatives and journalists who had rushed to the scene.
Mohammed Murtaza, a police officer, said the second bomb caused the building to collapse, killing even more people. Many of the dead and wounded, he said, were from the Shia sect of Islam, which extremist groups from Pakistan’s majority Sunni sect regard as heretical.
Shias, many of whom are members of the Hazara ethnic community in Quetta, have been particularly targeted by sectarian terror groups.
Human Rights Watch said the government’s failure to protect Shias “amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens”.
“[Last year] was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch.
“As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military and security agencies.”
The organisation said the police had “turned a blind eye” to the activities of nominally banned sectarian terror groups, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Also yesterday, a bomb ripped through a crowded Sunni mosque outside the north-western city of Mingora in Swat, an area the government had to wrest from Taliban control in 2009. The building is owned by Tableeghi Jamaat, a preaching group not linked to militant organisations.
The attack killed 22 people and wounded more than 70.
– (Guardian service)