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Bombings Targeting Pakistan Religious Minorities Kill Scores


Volunteers carry a victim to an ambulance from the site of a suicide attack during a Shi'ite procession in Quetta.
Volunteers carry a victim to an ambulance from the site of a suicide attack during a Shi'ite procession in Quetta.
Police in Pakistan say more than 70 people were killed in two suicide bomb attacks targeting religious minorities in separate cities on September 3.

In the most serious incident, more than 65 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of a procession of Shi'ite Muslims in the southern city of Quetta, capital of Baluchistan Province. Pakistani police say the death toll from the attack rose as more critically wounded people died overnight in hospital.

Leaders of the Shi'ite sect have called a general strike in Quetta to protest the attack and all schools are closed for a day of mourning.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack on the procession in the city's Mizan Square, which was to mark the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day, an international celebration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan by some Muslims to show solidarity with the Palestinians and opposition to Israel's control of Jerusalem.

The Taliban also said it would launch attacks soon on Europe and the United States.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has "strongly condemned" the bomb attacks. The White House said they were "even more reprehensible" because the attacks came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and as Pakistan contends with disastrous flooding.

More than 100 people were reported injured and the local government declared the situation for the injured in hospitals an "emergency."

The sound of gunfire was also heard in and around the site of the blast for some time. It stopped when law enforcement and paramilitary personnel cordoned off the area.

Locals said several people were injured in the gunfire, which was apparently indiscriminate. Among the injured were five journalists who had been covering the procession.

Gul Khan witnessed the explosion from a few meters away.

"The procession was coming here and when the leader started addressing them, there was a blast," he told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal. "After that, everyone started running here and there. There were many dead lying on the ground, 30 to 40.

He said the gunfire that followed the blast "continued for almost 30 minutes, and no one knew what is happening."

Ahmadi Attack

Earlier, another suicide attack was carried out near a mosque belonging of the minority Ahmadi sect in the northern city of Mardan. At least one person was killed and three others injured.

According to a local police officer, Waqif Khan, the attacker attempted to enter the mosque, resulting in a violent confrontation with mosque security guards.

"The guards outside the mosque intercepted the bomber. He had a hand grenade and did not stop," he said. "But [the guards] opened fire at him and [he] was injured, following which he detonated himself."

Today's attacks follow multiple suicide bombs targeting a Shi'ite rally in the eastern city of Lahore on September 1 that killed about 35 people and wounded 300 more.

with agency reports