At least 23 people were killed in suicide bombings targeting religious minorities in Pakistan today.
A blast killed 22 people in the south-western city of Quetta at a Shiite procession calling for solidarity with Palestinians, Police Chief Ghulam Shabir Sheikh said. Dozens were wounded and some were in critical condition.
Some Shiite youths fired in the air after the blast and police were trying to control the situation.
Earlier today a suicide attack on a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect killed at least one person and wounded several others in the north-west Pakistani town of Mardan.
Shiite leader Allama Abbas Kumaili appealed to participants in Quetta to remain peaceful.
“We understand these are attempts to bring Sunni and Shiite sects against each other,” he said.
The attack in Quetta was the second this week on Pakistani Shiites, who by some estimates comprise about 20% of the population in the mostly Sunni Muslim country, although figures are disputed.
A triple suicide attack on Wednesday killed 35 people at a Shiite ceremony in the eastern city of Lahore.
Kumaili said the attacks against minority sects were a result of government failure.
“Our government concentrates all its efforts to secure VIPs. Common men are not their priority,” he said.
Government officials have said they cannot protect outdoor gatherings from attacks, and Interior Minister Rehman Malik called for Shiites to hold religious ceremonies indoors.
Baluchistan provincial police chief Malik Iqbal said officials had warned organisers of the Quetta ceremony to stick inside a security cordon after intelligence agents received reports about a possible terror attack.
“They violated the route,” Iqbal said. “We had warned them not to extend their rally out of the cordon.”
Wednesday’s attack in Lahore, and a host of other assaults on religious minorities, was claimed by the hardline Sunni Pakistani Taliban, which is seeking to overthrow a Western-backed government shaken most recently by flooding that has caused massive displacement, suffering and economic damage.