Tuesday 23 January 2018

Burial protest after deadly blasts

Pakistani police officers and local residents gather at the site of bomb blast in Quetta (AP)
Pakistani police officers and local residents gather at the site of bomb blast in Quetta (AP)
Local residents survey one of the sites of Thursday's deadly bombings in Quetta, Pakistan (AP)
Pakistani Shiite Muslims chant slogans next to the bodies of their relatives awaiting burial (AP)

Shiites in a Pakistani city hit by a brutal terror attack have refused to bury their dead in protest, demanding that the government do more to protect them.

The minority Muslim sect has been targeted by a barrage of bombings and shootings.

Thursday's bombings in Quetta were the worst in a series of attacks across Pakistan that killed 120 people. It appeared to be the country's deadliest single day of violence in five years.

Most of the dead were Shiites killed in twin bombings at a billiards hall - a frightening reminder that Sunni extremists are increasingly targeting them. Members of the beleaguered Shiite community in Quetta laid about 50 of their dead out in the street today, saying they would not bury them until the government improves security in the area. Young Shiite men also set tyres on fire and blocked a nearby road in protest.

"We want safety for our all sects, and all security measures should be taken for our safety, said Fida Hussain, a relative of one of the victims. "We will not bury them until the government fulfils all our demands."

The strike was the worst of three deadly bombings targeting Shiites and soldiers in Quetta, capital of the volatile Baluchistan province, and worshippers at a Sunni mosque in the north-west on the same day.

Five people who were wounded in the twin bombings at the billiards hall last night died of their wounds overnight, said police, putting the death toll from that attack at 86. The billiards hall bombing, in a Shiite area of the city, started with a suicide attack followed by a car bomb minutes later. Militants often use such staggered bombings to maximise the body count by targeting rescuers and others who rush to the scene.

On Friday Shiite volunteers erected tents to keep bystanders away from the severely-damaged building, where the pool hall once occupied the basement. Nearby resident Jan Ali described it as a neighbourhood gathering spot where young and old often waited in line to play on its six tables. He rushed to the scene night after the blast.

He said: "It was a scene like hell on earth. Rescue people were carrying out dead and injured, people bleeding and crying, and rushing them toward ambulances. I have never seen such a horrifying situation in my life."

Pakistan's minority Shiite Muslims have increasingly been targeted by radical Sunnis who consider them heretics. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group with strong ties to the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack.

Press Association

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