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Pakistan Mourns Hundreds Killed in Multiple Bomb Blasts


Shi'ite Muslim men shout slogans during a protest rally organised by the religious group Majlis-e- Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) in Karachi, January 11, 2013, to condemn the bomb blasts in Quetta a day earlier, and the killings of Shiites.

Shi'ite Muslim men shout slogans during a protest rally organised by the religious group Majlis-e- Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) in Karachi, January 11, 2013, to condemn the bomb blasts in Quetta a day earlier, and the killings of Shiites.

Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan on Friday declared three days or mourning after multiple bombings there killed almost 100 people and injured dozens more.

Two sectarian bomb attacks and another bombing apparently targeting security personnel in the southern city of Quetta, along with a fourth explosion in Pakistan's northwest, drove Thursday's final death toll to well over 100.

The headlines in the national papers described the multiple bombings as a "bloodbath" and a day of "carnage."

Pakistan's information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, said the entire country was saddened by the events.

The mass casualty twin bombing in Quetta, claimed by the banned militant Sunni organization Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, killed mostly Shi'ite Muslims. A third blast that killed 12 people, including members of the security forces, was claimed by Baluch militant nationalists.

The blast in northwest Pakistan killed more than 20 members of a Muslim missionary group known as Tableeghi. No one claimed responsibility for that bombing.

Human Rights Watch says religious minorities in Pakistan are facing unprecedented insecurity and persecution. More than 400 Shi'ites were killed in sectarian violence in the country last year.

Mustafa Qadri of Amnesty International says sectarian attacks have gone on for years, but are now getting worse despite the presence of multiple security forces.

"You've got this weird situation in Pakistan where these groups are committing these awful attacks with impunity and often in a very coordinated and very organized fashion and yet the state seems unable or unwilling to bring these perpetrators to justice," Qadri said.

Among those killed Thursday in Quetta was human rights activist Irfan Ali, who died in the second of the two sectarian bombings while trying to help those who had been injured moments earlier in the first blast. Two local journalists covering the killings also died in the follow-up blast.

A candle light vigil was planned in Islamabad Friday evening in Ali's memory.

Amnesty's Qadri says the continued violence in Pakistan is eroding rule of law in the country, and that solving the root causes of the violence will be a major challenge for any new government.

Pakistan is to hold national elections in spring, in what could be the first peaceful transfer of civilian power since the country was formed in 1947.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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