Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bombs blast Ramadan crowd in Pakistan

I thought the jihadists were off helping the flood victims.

Pakistan has some serious problems and "western Islamophobia" clearly is not one of them.

PAKISTANI militants have broken their short-lived ceasefire with a bloody sectarian attack in the eastern city of Lahore that has left 31 people dead and more than 280 injured.

Three co-ordinated bomb blasts targeted a huge funeral procession by Shi'ites, a minority Islamic sect in Pakistan, just after sunset on Tuesday night, local time, as thousands crowded the streets to break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The blasts are the first major attack since the country was hit by devastating floods, which have directly affected more than 10 per cent of the population.

An estimated 35,000 Pakistani Shi'ites were marching in the procession to mark the death of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed who was assassinated 1300 years ago during Ramadan, when a bomb was detonated near a well-known Shia building.

As panicked marchers scattered, suicide bombers triggered two more blasts, sparking a violent reaction from the crowd, which turned on police and set fire to nearby vehicles and buildings, including one police station.

A policeman looks towards the wreckage of burnt motor bikes near the site of a bomb blast, which took place during a Shiite Muslim procession a day earlier, in Lahore September 2, 2010

Lahore commissioner Khusro Pervez yesterday described the bombings as a "security lapse", saying at least one attacker had successfully broken through a security cordon.

But police rejected that suggestion, saying several security officers had forced one of the suicide bombers to detonate his payload early, and had died in the process. A second bomb went off as survivors and onlookers were gathering around the injured from one of the two earlier explosions.

An Urdu newspaper website reported yesterday that a militant group known as the Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi al-Alami had claimed responsibility for the attack, although police said they had no proof of the claim.

The bombing came just one day after the Pakistan military launched fresh attacks on Taliban militant hideouts in the Khyber Agency on the Afghan border, and as the US State Department announced a $US5 million ($5.5m) reward for information leading to the capture of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

The US has charged Mehsud with terrorism over the murder of seven Americans at a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan last December and added his Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group to its terror blacklist. The TTP, which the State Department says was behind the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007, has also been linked to the botched car-bomb plot in New York's Times Square in May and a deadly attack at the US consulate in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar in April.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday condemned the latest blasts as "cowardly acts of terrorism". "Those elements playing with the lives of innocent people will not escape the law of the land," he said.

Sunni Islam hardline groups such as al-Qa'ida and the Taliban consider Shi'ites - about 20 per cent of Pakistan's 160 million people - to be heretics.

The schism between the two groups centres on a disagreement over whether Hazrat Ali was the fourth and final caliph (Muslim leader) after Mohammed - as Sunnis believe - or the rightful successor to the prophet.

Last month suicide bombers hit an important Sufi shrine in Lahore, killing 43 people. Two months earlier, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed two Lahore mosques belonging to Ahmadi Muslims, another minority Islamic sect, killing at least 82 people.

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