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Angry shiites mourn dead after blast and bash US

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Angry Shi'ites Mourn 19 Killed in Pakistan Blast
Tue Jun 1, 2004 06:33 AM ET

By Aamir Ashraf
KARACHI (Reuters) - Angry Shi'ite Muslims clashed with police during funerals on Tuesday for many of the 19 people killed in an apparent sectarian suicide bombing of a mosque in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

Riot police fired tear gas to drive back crowds of thousands gathered for the funerals as some people pelted them with stones and torched nearby vehicles.

"We have no faith in police and rangers because they failed to protect our mosques," senior Shi'ite cleric Hasan Zafar Naqvi said. "We demand that the government deploy the army to ensure their security and safety."

The ceremonies were held in front of the Ali Raza Imam Bargah mosque, on one of Karachi's main thoroughfares, where the blast took place during evening prayers on Monday.

The explosion wounded at least 50 people, some seriously, and three Shi'ites died later in clashes with police.

The bombing appeared to be the latest in a spate of tit-for-tat sectarian violence in the volatile port city, coming less than 24 hours after the killing of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, a senior cleric from Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslim sect.

Thousands of angry Shi'ite mourners beat their chests and chanted "God is Greatest" as friends and relatives bore caskets draped in white and black cloth. Some waved wooden stakes and iron bars and chanted "Down with America!"

Police and paramilitary troops from among the 15,000 deployed in a failed attempt to protect Shi'ite mosques kept their distance after Monday's rioting, in which angry crowds set ablaze 20 vehicles, two filling stations and a local bank.

But they fired in the air when some mourners threw stones at them.

Naqvi complained that police had detained at least 30 Shi'ite mourners and demanded their immediate release.

Shops and businesses in Karachi's main commercial district were shuttered on Tuesday for fear of further violence.

It was the second bloody attack on a Shi'ite mosque in Karachi in less than a month.

"It was apparently a suicide attack, because we did not find any crater caused by bomb explosion," a senior police official said on condition of anonymity. "The situation is tense. There is a high deployment of police and rangers in Shi'ite areas."

A suspected Sunni suicide bomber killed 24 people and wounded 125 in an attack on another Shi'ite mosque on May 7.


State television said President Pervez Musharraf had ordered the provincial government in Karachi to take immediate steps to restore order and act against those responsible.

In a speech in Islamabad, Musharraf called on Muslims and the West to work toward resolving their differences to prevent civilization falling into an "abyss of barbarism."

The mosque targeted in the bombing was less than a mile from where Shamzai, a pro-Taliban cleric who called for "jihad," or holy war, against the United States, was killed on Sunday.

While the latest bombing smacked of decades-old sectarianism, analysts say it appears Sunni militants have been using attacks on Shi'ites as part of a broader campaign to undermine Musharraf and his support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

Violence between Sunnis, who make up about 70 percent of Pakistan's 97 percent majority Muslim population and Shi'ites, who account for 20 percent, has killed more than 150 people in the past year alone.

Analysts and diplomats have expressed fears the new round of violence could provoke fresh attacks on Western targets.

Last Wednesday, a policeman was killed and more than 30 people hurt when two car bombs detonated by suspected Sunni militants exploded near the home of the U.S. consul.

Ingrained hatred Shi'ites also feel for the United States has not ebbed despite the U.S. focus on containing Sunni militancy after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the mood has been exacerbated by U.S. clashes with Shi'ites in Iraq.

Such feelings date back to U.S. opposition to the Islamic revolution in neighboring and predominately Shi'ite Iran. (With reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Tahir Ikram)

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