Pakistan mosque blast: Mass funerals for Shia victims

The body of a victim killed in Friday's explosion at a Shia mosque in Shikarpur (31 January 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An official day of mourning has been declared across Sindh

Funerals have taken place in southern Pakistan for the victims of a suicide attack on a Shia mosque during Friday prayers which police say killed at least 60 people.

Dozens were also wounded in the attack in Sindh province's Shikarpur district, making it one of the worst sectarian attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

Sunni militants linked to the Taliban said they carried out the attack.

An official day of mourning has been declared across Sindh.

Some Shia groups burned tyres and blocked roads during protest rallies in Shikarpur town - where the attack took place.

Protests also took place in other cities.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protests against the bombing have taken place all over Pakistan, including in Karachi
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Attacks on Shia targets are relatively rare in the interior of Sindh
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Shias are demanding the arrest of those who orchestrated the attack

Shias are demanding the arrest of those who orchestrated the attack and better protection for their places of worship.

Police say that the bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body in the centre of the mosque. Four children were reported to be among the dead.

Press review by BBC Monitoring

Pakistan's newspapers are urging the government to act to halt the spread of Jundallah following the Sindh attack.

The group's "influence is expanding within our country even as we sit back helplessly and watch", laments The News, urging the arrest of its leaders and an end to "this hatred".

Noting that Friday's attack was the first "large-scale sectarian attack" in "the traditional home of Sufi Islam", Dawn argues that security operations against militants should now be expanded beyond the tribal areas.

Meanwhile, The Frontier Post says for the war against militancy to succeed, the federal and provincial governments must work together alongside "friendly countries" warning that "many countries want to see Pakistan as a shattered nation".

But the Express Tribune shows little confidence in the government's tackling of militant groups. "The prime minister runs the length and breadth of the country attending 'crisis meetings'… Stop meeting and start implementing," it says.

"The bomber selected a place in the mosque that would cause huge destruction," Raja Umar Khitab, a police official in Sindh's counter-terror department, told the AFP news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Shias in Karachi - who over the last 10 years have been frequently attacked - also held a large protest against the bombing
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands of wailing mourners at the mass funeral in Shikarpur hit their chests and heads in grief

Mr Khitab said the bomb contained steel pellets, ball bearings and shrapnel to maximise the damage.

Pakistan has over the past decade experienced an increasing number of sectarian attacks, most carried out by hard line Sunni Muslim groups against the minority Shia community, who comprise about 20% of the population.

The Jundallah militant group said it had carried out the attack. The group has been linked to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and announced allegiance to Islamic State last year.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said that those responsible would be tried by a military court, where their cases would be dealt with more quickly.

The attack came as Mr Sharif visited the city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that attacks on Shia targets have been fairly common in Karachi, on the coast, but are relatively new in the interior of Sindh province, where the influence of a more tolerant Sufi Islamic tradition is more widespread.

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