South Asia

Pakistan mourns as Lahore bombing toll rises to 31

A man mourns after the Lahore blasts of 1 September 2010
Image caption The attacks have angered Lahore residents

A three-day period of mourning has begun in Pakistan after bomb attacks on a Shia Muslim procession in Lahore city killed 31 people on Wednesday.

At least 170 people were injured when three bombs exploded targeting the procession. At least two of the attacks were suicide bombings, police said.

The Pakistani Taliban said it carried out the attacks in revenge for the killing of a Sunni leader last year.

Lahore has been the scene of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias.

However, there had been a lull in such attacks in the past month, as floods devastated Pakistan.

'Strongly condemn'

On Thursday morning, Lahore residents crowded the street outside the Shia mosque, Karbala Gamay Shah imambarah, the scene of the blast.

"This is the holy month. No-one can dare think of carrying out such things," news agency Reuters quoted Lahore resident Mohammad Ammar as saying.

"We strongly condemn it. At least one should think that it kills innocent people, innocent children. It should never happen."

"This is not the work of Muslims. I can't understand who carry out such things. It does not matter whose procession it was but such things should never happen," the agency quoted another resident, Arshad, as saying.

Meanwhile, in a press release, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] said it took the "responsibility of the three suicide attacks (Fidaee Hamla)".

"It is the revenge of Mulana Ali Shair Haidree who was martyred by Shia extremists," the release said and warned the Shia community of further "harsh attacks on them everywhere".

Mr Haidree was a firebrand anti-Shia leader of the proscribed Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) group, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says.

He was killed in Sindh province in August 2009.

Officials at the time said he was killed due to personal enmity, but Sunni hardline groups have been blaming Shia activists for the murder, our correspondent says.

The first explosion came shortly before nightfall on Wednesday, at the end of a procession by some 35,000 Shias to mark the death in the 7th Century of the first Shia imam, Ali bin Abi Talib.

Minutes later, as hundreds of people fled, a suicide bomber blew himself up near an area where food was being prepared for the marchers to break the Ramadan fast.

A second suicide bomber then detonated his explosive belt at an intersection near the end of the procession.

It is not known whether the first blast was a suicide bomb attack, but one local government official said that investigators had collected the bodies of three bombers.

Following the bombings, members of the public turned on police, attacking officers, their vehicles and nearby facilities.

At least one police station and one police truck had been set on fire. Other vehicles in the city were also set alight.

Officers had fired tear gas in an attempt to control the crowds.

Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani described the bombings as "cowardly acts of terrorism", and said that the perpetrators would be punished.

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