Mon, Apr 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Sectarian unrest in Pakistan deepens with some 40 dead

AGENCIES , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Four Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were injured yesterday when bombs exploded near their vehicles in northwest Pakistan, officials said.

A remote-controlled bomb exploded on a roadside near a paramilitary contingent outside the tribal town of Tank, local police official Abdullah said.

The blast injured two paramilitary soldiers and damaged their vehicle, he said.

In a second incident a remote-controlled roadside bomb near the town of Bannu exploded when paramilitary soldiers were patrolling the area, a security official said. Two soldiers were injured.

Bannu and Tank border the restive Waziristan tribal district where 250 people, mostly Uzbek and Chechan fighters, have been killed in the past three weeks.

In Parachinar, another Pakistani tribal area, fierce sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims since Friday have left 40 people dead.

Pakistan has deployed some 80,000 troops in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to check the movement of Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants who launch attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"So far we have received reports that 40 people have been killed in clashes in two days of fighting between two religious groups in Parachinar," said Arif Habib, a top official dealing with security in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Local officials said more than 70 people were also injured in the fighting.

Parachinar, a tribal town close to the Afghan border in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, has a history of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite communities.

The town was placed under curfew on Friday after fighting erupted between the rival groups and troops were deployed to restore order.

Officials said the soldiers had been given shoot-on-sight orders to curb the violence.

Parachinar administration official Sahibzada Anees said army troops backed up by gunship helicopters were patrolling the streets of the town, which has a population of around 70,000.

Officials said 14 deaths occurred when rockets crashed into a house of a resident early on Saturday. Among those killed were two women and four children.

Clashes between the two communities over a shrine last year left around 20 people dead.

Anees said trouble erupted after members of the Shiite community staged a demonstration Friday outside their mosque against local Sunnis who allegedly chanted anti-Shiite slogans during a religious rally last week.

Shiites, who account for about 20 percent of Pakistan's 160 million Sunni-dominated population, are in the majority in Parachinar.

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