Rights group warns Pakistan faces worsening sectarian violence

Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:06am EST
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By Gul Yousufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Violence against Pakistani Shia Muslims is rising and some communities are living in a state of siege, a human rights group said on Friday, warning that sectarian violence will only get worse a day after 114 people were killed in bombings.

Most of the deaths were caused by twin attacks in the western city of Quetta, near the Afghan border, the worst violence against Shias in decades.

"Last year was the bloodiest year for Shias in living memory," said Ali Dayan Hasan of Pakistan Human Rights Watch. "More than 400 were killed and if yesterday's attack is any indication, its just going to get worse."

Eighty-two 82 people were killed and 121 wounded in Quetta when a suicide bomber targeted a snooker club and a car bomb blew up nearby 10 minutes later. Nine police and 20 rescue workers were among those killed in the second blast.

"It was like doomsday. Bodies were lying everywhere," said police officer Mir Zubair Mehmood Mehmood.

The banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack in a predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood where the residents are ethnic Hazaras.

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.

The LeJ wants to impose a Sunni theocracy in U.S.-allied Pakistan by stoking Sunni-Shi'ite violence. It bombs religious processions and shoots civilians in the type of attacks that pushed countries like Iraq close to civil war.   Continued...

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