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Blasts, shootings take huge toll

Jan. 11, 2013 at 4:45 PM   |   Comments

QUETTA, Pakistan, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Separate explosions and shootings blamed on sectarian, separatist and militant violence shook Pakistani cities, leaving nearly 100 dead and scores wounded.

All the attacks occurred Thursday in Quetta, capital of southwest Baluchistan province, the port city of Karachi and near Mingora in the scenic Swat district, making the day one of the deadliest in the country, authorities said.

In Quetta, there were two near simultaneous explosions at a snooker club, and another car bomb explosion earlier in a market area. The city is home to a large population of minority Shiites Muslims in the predominantly Sunni Muslim Pakistan. The entire resource-rich province has been wracked by sectarian and separatist violence.

CNN, quoting authorities, said the blasts at the snooker club killed at least 93 people and wounded 169.

Dawn, Pakistan's leading English daily, quoted police as saying a majority of the people killed at the snooker club blasts belonged to the Hazara Shiite community.

Dawn said the attacks at the snooker club came hours after 12 people died in an explosion near a vehicle belonging to the Pakistani paramilitary force at Quetta's Bacha Khan Chowk shopping area. The dead included a cameraman and a reporter for a private television news channel and some police personnel, while 10 others were injured, Dawn said, quoting police. A separatist group reportedly took responsibility for the attack.

A police official told Dawn the death toll in both blasts could rise because of the serious nature of some of the injuries.

There were two attacks at the snooker club, one believed to be by a suicide bomber, when the facility was crowded with players. That was immediately followed by a car bombing outside the club as people were busy assisting police and rescue workers involved in the first blast, Dawn said. The second blast killed at least five policemen, two rescue workers and three journalists, the report said, quoting authorities and eyewitnesses.

The Bacha Khan Blast occurred when the area was crowded with shoppers, a shop owner told Dawn. CNN quoted officials as saying children were among those killed in the explosions but gave no other details.

In the Swat Valley attack, an explosion tore through the basement of the Tableeghi Markaz religious seminary, killing at least 22 people and injuring more than 70, police said.

The seminary is near Mingora, the regional headquarters of Swat district. The district was once a Taliban militant stronghold and came to international notice after the near fatal shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old education activist, by Taliban militants as she rode a school bus.

Dawn quoted a senior district official as saying the blast occurred when hundreds of people, arriving for Thursday night prayers, had assembled in the basement of the facility to be away from the cold.

Pakistan's Shiite community protested angrily over what it claims is a lack of protection in Quetta, and leaders say they are refusing to bury the dead until security is improved, the BBC reported Friday.

Swat, known for its green valleys and snow-covered mountains, had remained under the control of the militants until April 2009, when the Pakistani security forces launched a major operation to regain control of the area. Local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah fled Swat during the operation.

Dawn quoted Pakistani officials as saying Maulana and fighters are believed to be hiding in neighboring Afghanistan, from where they try to sneak into Swat.

In Karachi, which also has been the scene of much sectarian and political violence, police said gunmen killed at least nine people in separate attacks.

Those killed included seven sleeping laborers who were gunned down near a hospital on a highway.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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