Suicide bomb kills 43 Shi’ites in Pakistan city
Taliban claim responsibility for the attack
QUETTA, Pakistan — A suicide bombing claimed by the Pakistani Taliban killed at least 43 Shi’ite Muslims at a procession in southwest Pakistan yesterday. The assault sharply drove up the toll of sectarian assaults in a country battered by massive flooding.
To the northwest in Pakistan’s restive tribal regions, two suspected US missile strikes killed at least seven people in an area controlled by one of the main groups battling Americans in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Two other militant bombings left at least two people dead and several wounded on a day convulsed by the violence that threatens the stability of Pakistan’s weak civilian government — an essential but problematic Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants.
The first attack of the day was a roadside bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed one police officer and wounded three others, officials said.
Hours later, a suicide attack on a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect killed at least one person and wounded several others in the town of Mardan.
Soon after, a blast killed at least 43 people in the southwestern city of Quetta at a Shi’ite procession calling for solidarity with Palestinians, said Ghulam Shabir Sheikh, the Quetta police chief. He said 78 people were wounded, several critically.
Quetta police Officer Hamid Shakil told local television six or seven of the dead appeared to have fatal bullet wounds, and said they may have been killed by participants in the procession who opened fire wildly after the attack.
The commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Qari Hussain Mehsud, told the Associated Press one of his militants carried out the bombing.
“We proudly take its responsibility,’’ he said. “Our war is against America and Pakistan security forces, but Shi’ites are also our target because they, too, are our enemies.’’
He said he was proud the United States added the Pakistani Taliban to its international terrorism blacklist on Wednesday, and he threatened attacks in the United States and Europe in coming days that would resemble a recent attempted car bombing in Times Square.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the terrorist bombings. “These attacks, which deliberately targeted Shi’ite Muslims and killed or injured scores of civilians, are unacceptable,’’ Yves Sorokobi, a UN spokesman, said at UN headquarters in New York.
The Taliban-allied Haqqani network controls the northwestern tribal area of North Waziristan along the Afghan border but its fighters are hunted by US drone aircraft that regularly unleash deadly missile attacks.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said three missiles hit a house in a village near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, last evening.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to the media, said the identity of the slain was not immediately clear.
The officials said a second suspected US missile strike killed two people in a vehicle in the North Waziristan village of Datta Khel. They said the men were believed to be foreign militants.
The attack in Quetta was the week’s second claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and targeting Shi’ites, who by some estimates make up about 20 percent of the population in the mostly Sunni Muslim country.
A triple suicide attack Wednesday night killed 35 people at a Shi’ite ceremony in the eastern city of Lahore.
Shi’ite leader Allama Abbas Kumaili said the attacks were a result of government failure and appealed to participants to remain peaceful despite anger that led to local unrest after the bombing.
Government officials have said they cannot protect outdoor gatherings from attacks, and Interior Minister Rehman Malik called for Shi’ites to hold religious ceremonies indoors.