Pakistan bombings death toll rises to 57

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THE death toll from a double bomb attack on a busy marketplace in a Shia-dominated part of north-west Pakistan has risen to 57, officials said yesterday.

As many as 167 people were also wounded in what appeared to be a sectarian outrage in the town of Parachinar, which sits in the Kurram tribal area bordering Afg­hanistan, hospital official Shabir Hussain and Shia leader Hamid Ali said.

Hussain said almost all the dead and wounded were Shiites. There was no claim of responsibility, but authorities have blamed militant groups belonging to the Sunni Muslim majority for previous gun and bomb attacks against Pakistan’s Shiite minority.

Ali said the market was full of people buying food for the evening meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan. “We demand protection. We request the government to take action against those who routinely kill our people,” he said.

A doctor, Zahid Hussain, said the dead and injured quickly overwhelmed Parachinar’s main hospital. “We have no place to keep the wounded,” he said. “Many are lying on the hospital floor and on the lawn.”

The co-ordinated bomb blasts hit the main bazaar as people were shopping before the iftar meal, police spokesman Fazal Naeem Khan confirmed.

One bomb was believed to have been planted on a motorcycle.

The second bomb detonated about four minutes after the first, about 400 yards from the initial blast, said government official Javed Ali.

One man, Said Hussain, who was in the area where the second blast struck, reported seeing a teenage boy shout “God is great!” moments before the explosion.

Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 per cent of its 177 million population following the Shia interpretation of the holy Koran. Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to the Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Meanwhile, militants attacked a Pakistani border guard post in the remote town of Sunsater early yesterday, killing seven security personnel and wounding others, senior government officer Akbar Hussain ­Durrani said.