Pakistan’s Shia community protests deadly hospital bombing

August 20th, 2008 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 20 (DPA) Shia Muslims Wednesday protested a suicide bombing outside a hospital in north-western Pakistan, calling the attack a conspiracy against the country that aimed to fan sectarian hatred.A suicide bomber Tuesday detonated an explosive device he was carrying after infiltrating a crowd of Shia Muslims in Dera Ismail Khan, killing 32 people and injuring at least 20.

The crowd had gathered at the hospital where the body of a local Shia leader was brought after he was gunned down earlier in the day.

A Shia umbrella organization Tuesday night announced three days of mourning, called for peaceful protests throughout the country and appealed for forging unity “to save the country.”

Markets remained closed as a tense calm prevailed in the Pashtun-dominated town about 300 kilometres south of North-West Frontier Province’s capital, Peshawar.

“The situation is very tense in the town,” District Police Officer Nasir Satti said. “However, police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in large numbers to avoid any untoward incident.”

Shia activists rallied in several cities to condemn the “cowardly act” and demanded security for the religious minority.

Meanwhile, police were searching for leads on the identity of the attacker, who is believed to have come from the adjoining lawless tribal region.

“We have found the severed head and limbs of the suspected bomber, which have been sent to the forensic lab for DNA testing,” Satti said.

Some analysts linked the deadly strike with the sectarian conflict in a tribal district where rival Shia and Sunni tribes have been engaged in running battles that have killed up to 250 people in the past two weeks.

Pro-Taliban militants entrenched in the restive Waziristan region have joined the Sunni tribesmen, intensifying the fighting in the Kurram tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Taliban Movement, Maulvi Omar, Tuesday claimed responsibility for the suicide attack and said it was carried out to avenge the government’s military operations against militants in the north-western district of Bajaur and Swat.

Pakistan’s new government launched peace talks with the militants in March, bringing a brief lull in the violence, but the clashes re-erupted within months with the militants accusing security forces of violating the terms of a sketchy truce.

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