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Pakistan's President Condemns Quetta Mosque Attack - 2003-07-05

As the victims of a bomb attack on a Pakistan mosque were being buried in the city of Quetta, President Pervez Musharraf called the people who bombed the mosque a disgrace to Islam.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf condemned Friday's suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in Quetta in unequivocal words, and vowed to rid the country of the type of extremists who carried it out.

"I condemn them in the strongest language," he said. " They are people not only harming our nation, but they are harming (and) bring bad name to this great religion, Islam. They think they are doing this for the sake of their religion but actually they are disgracing our religion."

As Mr. Musharraf was speaking, after his return from a trip abroad, a mass funeral for 41 victims of the bombing was taking place in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province. At least 47 people, including the three bombers, died in the attack.

Shiite mourners beat their chests and wailed loudly at the funeral, while soldiers protected by armored personnel carriers and backed up by hundreds of police patrolled the area to prevent any outbreaks of violence. Leaders of Pakistan's Shiite Muslim minority, which has been engaged in along-running feud with the Sunni majority, have accused Mr. Musharraf's government of not doing enough to protect them.

Local officials say three "terrorists" took part in the bombing. They say two of the attackers blew themselves up with bombs attached to their bodies while the third was wounded and died later in the hospital.

The bombing triggered violent protests, forcing the provincial government to impose an indefinite curfew and deploy troops in Quetta. The curfew remained in effect Saturday, and reports said that only mourners were exempted.

Some commentators suggest the mosque attack was linked to Pakistan's cooperation in U-S led efforts to root out terrorism and extremist forces in neighboring Afghanistan. President Musharraf says he does not rule out such a possibility.

"Yes indeed we are looking into it. The possibility of any across-the-border involvement cannot be ruled out. We need to see and we will have to take stern action whatever the cause," he said.

No one has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack. The violent conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan. In recent months, the government has banned several Islamic groups as part of a crackdown on extremist religious forces in the country.