Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:13AM
Pakistani Shia Muslims protest the targeting of Shias in Pakistan, Islamabad, February 19, 2013.

Pakistani Shia Muslims protest the targeting of Shias in Pakistan, Islamabad, February 19, 2013.

Tensions have taken a hike as thousands of Pakistani Shia mourners gathered to bury the victims of a recent bomb attack in the southwestern city of Quetta that killed nearly 90 Shia Muslims. On Wednesday, mourners thronged to bury the victims while shouting anti-government slogans and throwing stones at government vehicles. The move prompted security forces to fire shots into the air. On February 16, a bombing tore through the crowded vegetable market in the town of Hazara, on the outskirts of Quetta in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province. The area is mostly inhabited by Shia Muslims. Following the massacre, protesters took to the streets across Pakistan and other countries including neighboring Afghanistan to denounce the violence against Shia Muslims. The mourning relatives of the victims had refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones until the government took concrete actions and found the perpetrators of the slaughter. On Tuesday, the protesters in Pakistan agreed to bury the victims of the bloody bombing and call off the protests, after Islamabad vowed to arrest those responsible for the attack. The agreement came when Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sent cabinet ministers to the southwestern city to hold talks with the protesters and announced an operation to arrest those responsible for the attack. Officials said security forces had killed four men and arrested over 170 alleged suspects, including the alleged mastermind of Saturday's bombing. However, during Wednesday’s burial of the dead, angry mourners quarreled with community leaders for agreeing to end their sit-in protest which started on Sunday over the brutal massacre. A spokesman for the outlawed Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Saturday bombing that drew global condemnations. Violence has escalated against Shia Muslims in different parts of Pakistan in recent months. Since the beginning of 2012, hundreds of Shias have been killed in the country. Shias make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of over 180 million. MR/HJL
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