Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Police chiefs fired over Quetta mosque bombing


The city police chief and two other officers have been dismissed following the suicide assault of a mosque that killed as many as 50 Shiite Muslim worshippers, a top police official said Monday.

Quetta city police chief Rehmatullah Niazi and the other officers were dismissed for security lapses that allowed as many as four attackers to storm a mosque in the heart of the city during Friday prayers last week, said Shoaib Suddle, chief of police for the southwestern province of Baluchistan of which Quetta is the capital.

The attackers hurled grenades and sprayed worshippers with bullets as they prayed. Security guards killed three of the attackers and a fourth died in a hospital later of his wounds.

Seventeen people have been arrested for questioning, and authorities are investigating the possibility that al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives hiding out in border regions may have been behind the attack. Quetta lies near the Afghan border.

The victims were ethnic Hazaras -- a minority that also lives in Afghanistan and was often at odds with the Taliban during their rule that ended in 2001 following a US-led war.

Friday's attack came just weeks after pamphlets threatening attacks by Taliban suicide squads surfaced in Spinboldak, an Afghan town not far from Quetta. They were signed by the Taliban's former military commander.

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