Tue, Mar 22, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Shrine attack condemned as `cowardly'

PAKISTAN UN Secretary- General Annan called the attack `brazen,' and then appealed for restraint and calm while the responsible are being brought to justice


Local residents gather inside the compound of a Shiite Muslim shrine, where an explosion killed 46 people at Fatehpur village 350km south of Quetta, Pakistan on Sunday. Investigators sought clues to a bombing that tore through a gathering of thousands.


The death toll in a weekend bombing at a Shiite shrine in southwestern Pakistan rose on Monday to 46, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the attack, calling for restraint among those who might want vengeance.

The explosion late Saturday carved out a 60cm deep crater near the shrine in the town of Fatehpur in Baluchistan province, where 20,000 people had gathered for a three-day event marking the anniversary of the death of a 19th century Shiite saint.

No one claimed responsibility for the time bomb blast.

Pakistan has a history of sectarian violence between extremists of the majority Sunni and minority Shiite sects, who are considered by many of the Sunnis to be heretical.

The death toll rose Monday from 30 to 46, local district Police Chief Khadim Hussain said, after five people died overnight of their injuries.

Also, 11 people whose bodies were picked up immediately after the blast were not initially counted in the death tally, he said.

Explosives experts pored over pieces of metal collected at the blast site to try to determine what kind of bomb was used, he said.

"Police officers have also asked the caretaker of the shrine questions about why the shrine might have been targeted or who might be behind it," Hussain said.

Annan condemned the attack "in the strongest terms" and reiterated "that no cause can justify terrorist attacks anywhere," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.

"The secretary-general calls for those responsible to be brought to justice and appeals for calm and restraint in the face of this brazen and cowardly act."

A bomb packed with about 3kg of explosive went off among pilgrims on Sunday as they were taking supper in an open area about 150m from the shrine.

Later Sunday, frightened pilgrims crammed into buses leaving the remote village, about 800km southwest of Islamabad, as relatives sifted bloodied caps and shoes for signs of loved ones.

Others congregated at a hospital in a nearby town where most of the bodies were collected.

The attack added to security fears in restive Baluchistan province, which was additionally hit last week by fighting between government forces and renegade tribesmen.

Pakistan also been plagued with terrorist attacks by militants who are angered by President General Pervez Musharraf's support of the US-led war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

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