String of bombings kill 101, injure 200 in Pakistan

Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:46pm EST
 

By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least 101 people were killed in bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday in one of the country's bloodiest days in recent years, officials said, with most casualties caused by sectarian attacks in Quetta.

The bombings underscored the myriad threats Pakistani security forces face from homegrown Sunni extremist groups, the Taliban insurgency in the northwest and the less well-known Baloch insurgency in the southwest.

On Thursday evening, two coordinated explosions killed at least 69 people and injured more than 100 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, said Deputy Inspector of Police Hamid Shakil.

The first attack, in a crowded snooker hall, was a suicide bombing, local residents said. About ten minutes later, a car bomb exploded, they said. Five policemen and a cameraman were among the dead from that blast.

The attacks happened in a predominately Shia neighborhood and banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. The extremist Sunni group targets Shias, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistani's population.

Targeted killings and bombings of Shia communities are common in Pakistan, and rights groups say hundreds of Shia were killed last year. Militant groups in Balochistan frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighboring Iran.

The killers are rarely caught and some Shia activists say militants work alongside elements of Pakistan's security forces, who see them as a potential bulwark against neighboring India.

Many Pakistanis fear their nation could become the site of a regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia, source of funding for Sunni extremist groups, and Iran, which is largely Shia.   Continued...

 
An injured rescue worker receives treatment in a hospital after the second bomb blast in Quetta January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed