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Parachinar: Suicide blast kills 26

18 February, 2012

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PARACHINAR: At least 26 Shias were reportedly killed while more than three-dozen injured on Friday, after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives just near the targeted mosque in the congested Kurmi bazaar in the main town of Kurram Agency.

The miseries of the locals did not end there, as security forces fired on crowds protesting the attack, killing three people.

According to details, the bomber struck outside the mosque in the busy market shortly after Friday prayers. Scores of shops in the bazaar were also damaged as a result of the explosion, while security forces sealed the entire bazaar. Local government administrator Wajid Ali told The Associated Press that many of the victims were shoppers or people with stalls in the market.

Since the late 1980s more than 4,000 people have been killed in outbreaks of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia militant groups in Pakistan.

It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a remote-controlled bomb blast killed at least 35 people in the Khyber tribal district on January 10.

Residents said the bombing destroyed at least eight shops in the city's crowded bazaar. Telephone links broke down after the attack and news of the elevated death toll was slow to arrive via radio, said top regional administrator Sahibzada Muhammad Anees.

A curfew was imposed in the area and law enforcers launched a search operation. However, no arrests were made till the filing of this report.

Fazal Saeed, leader of a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the latest attack in Kurram. "We have targeted the Shia community of Parachinar because they were involved in activities against us," he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"We caught a man yesterday who was planting a bomb at a petrol station owned by a Sunni. We did it in response," he told AFP.

"We also warn the political administration of Parachinar to stop siding with the Shia community in all our disputes."

Officials had earlier said eight people died in the blast, which struck as locals visited a special Friday market. "A curfew has been imposed in the area after some people tried to hold a demonstration. Security forces have sealed the area," Anees said.

Parachinar is the main town in Kurram district, part of the semi-autonomous tribal belt where US drone strikes target Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants in what Washington considers the world's largest international terror hub.

According to an AFP tally, Islamist bombers and gunmen have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since July 2007.

President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the Parachinar bombing and said the country was suffering the scourge of terrorism which, he said, needs to be eradicated at priority.

In a message, the president prayed for the departed souls and directed the authorities to provide the best possible medical treatment to the injured. He said the perpetrators of such heinous crimes would not be spared.vv

End.

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