The death toll from a Pakistani Taliban suicide attack on a Shiite Muslim procession rose from 43 to 65 overnight as critically wounded people died in hospitals, police said today.
About 150 people were wounded and some remained in critical condition after the bombing Friday in the south-western city of Quetta, police official Mohammed Sultan said.
The attack was the second in a week against Shiites for which the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. A triple suicide bombing Wednesday night killed 35 people at a Shiite ceremony in the eastern city of Lahore.
“Our war is against American and Pakistani security forces, but Shiites are also our target because they, too, are our enemies,” Pakistani Taliban commander Qari Hussain Mehsud said.
Shiite leaders blamed the government for failing to protect them and called a general strike in Quetta, where all schools were closed for a day of mourning.
Shiites make up an estimated 20 % of the population in the mostly Sunni Muslim country, although figures are imprecise and disputed.
Long-standing sectarian violence in Pakistan, particularly against Shiites, has been exacerbated by the rise of the Sunni extremist Taliban and al Qaida movements.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the Taliban, al-Qaida and the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group were working together to destabilise Pakistan.
“They are infidels,” he told reporters in Islamabad.
Pakistan’s weak civilian government is struggling to deal with massive flooding and the incessant militant violence aimed at overthrowing the Western-backed administration.
The flooding began with unusually heavy rains in the country’s northern mountains and killed more than 1,600 people. Millions have been driven from their homes and the waters are still swamping rich agricultural land in the southern provinces of Sindh and Punjab.