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String of bombs target Shiite religious procession in Lahore

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-02

Three bombs were detonated during a Shiite religious procession in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing at least 31 and injuring over 170, officials report.

AFP - The death toll from suicide attacks that targeted a busy procession in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore rose to 31 on Thursday as six people succumbed to their injuries, officials said.
  
Three suicide bombers targeted a Shiite mourning procession made up of thousands of people on Wednesday at the moment of the breaking of the fast in the holy month of Ramadan, wounding hundreds.
  
It was the first major attack in Pakistan since devastating floods engulfed a fifth of the volatile country over the past month in its worst disaster yet.
  
"Thirty-one people have died and a total of 281 were injured," Fahim Jehanzeb, a spokesman for Lahore's rescue agency told AFP, adding that he feared more would die from their injuries.
  
Sajjad Bhutta, a senior local administration official, confirmed the new death toll.
  
Head of police investigations for Lahore, Zulfiqar Hamid, told AFP that investigations were ongoing and no arrest had yet been made.
  
Prayers were held for seven of the dead on Thursday, with police and paramilitary providing tight security, while local authorities announced a day of mourning with all public and private institutions closed.
  
Later hundreds of Shiite Muslims clad in black took to the streets to denounce the attack and said they would later hold a meeting to discuss a strategy in response.
  
"We strongly condemn this incident. We will not tolerate such attack in future," a Shiite leader, Hassan Zafar Naqvi, told AFP.
  
An AFP reporter said that all markets were closed and roads were quiet on Thursday, after the attacks provoked an outpouring of fury in the city a night earlier, with mourners trying to torch a nearby police station.


  
Police fired tear gas to force back the surging crowd as furious mourners beat the bodies of the suicide bombers with sticks and shoes, while others beat their own heads and chests at the site of the attacks in frustration.
  
The emotional crowd chanted slogans against the police and the provincial government over their failure to protect the Shiite procession, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.
  
Lahore, a city of eight million near Pakistan's border with India, has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked attacks in a nationwide bombing campaign that has killed more than 3,600 people in three years.
  
The procession hit by the blasts was being held to mark the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazarat Ali, who is revered by Shia Muslims and is the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.
  
Shiites account for around 20 percent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 160 million.
  
Religious violence in Pakistan, mostly between Sunni and Shiite groups, has killed more than 4,000 people in the past decade, and it is not the first time Lahore has seen bombers target religious gatherings.
  
In July, twin suicide attacks on an Islamic Sufi shrine in the city, which is the capital of Punjab province and a major military, political and cultural hub, killed 43 people.
  
In May, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed two mosques belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect in Lahore, killing at least 82 people.
  
Many attribute the wave of Islamist militant attacks in Pakistan over the past three years to Islamabad's alliance with Washington and the US-led war against a resurgent Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.
  
They say the attacks are coordinated by Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants living in the remote mountainous areas bordering Afghanistan.
  
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the latest attack, which came as the United States added the Pakistani Taliban to a blacklist of foreign terrorist groups, whose members now face asset freezes and travel bans.
  
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated the Tehreek-e-Taliban as a foreign terrorist organisation on August 12, and it was formally added to the list when it was published Wednesday in the Federal Register.
  
On Thursday a militant gun attack in a former Taliban stronghold in the northwest killed one female teacher and wounded two of her colleagues, officials said.
  
The victims -- all women -- were hit as they returned home on foot from their school in Khar, the main town of Bajaur tribal district, which was a stronghold of Taliban militants opposed to the education of girls, until an army crackdown in 2008.
 

Date created : 2010-09-01

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