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Shia cleric's funeral march attacked, 32 killed

Shia cleric's funeral march attacked, 32 killed

Author: Press Trust of India
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 21, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/shia-clerics-funeral-march-attacked-32-killed/426279/

Introduction: Suicide attack creates mayhem, violent protests in Dera Ismail Khan; authorities impose curfew

At least 32 people were killed and nearly 160 injured on Friday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the funeral procession of a Shia cleric in the Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan, sparking angry protests which prompted authorities to impose curfew.

The suicide bomber struck the 1,500-strong funeral procession of cleric Sher Zaman, who was killed by unidentified gunmen on Thursday.

Though the procession had security cover, the bomber emerged from a crowded bus terminal on the route of the procession and blew himself up, he said. No group claimed responsibility for the blast. Officials said the attack could be linked to sectarian rivalries.

President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti condemned the attack. The bombing sparked angry protests by people who were in the procession. They went on the rampage, firing in the air and burning a bus and several other vehicles, forcing the authorities to clamp curfew on the town and call military forces for assistance.

Witnesses said the suicide bomber was aged between 15 and 17 years and his body was later found torn apart.

The protesters, who claimed authorities had not made adequate security arrangements, stoned Government offices and security forces, torched and ransacked shops, burnt buses and set up road blocks in the city. They also snatched cameras from television crews covering the incident.

There were also reports that staff at a hospital, where the injured were taken, fled on seeing a group of angry protesters. Some of the seriously injured persons were taken to hospitals in Punjab province and Islamabad.

Four days after a peace pact was inked between religious hardliners and the NWFP Government, leading cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad is yet to make Taliban leaders accept the deal to enforce Islamic laws in Swat valley.

Mohammad, who has been holding talks with Taliban leaders, on Friday met its commander Maulana Fazlullah, who is his son-in-law, for direct talks as reports said Taliban was demanding pulling out security forces from Swat, release of all prisoners and a general amnesty for its men.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told reporters that Fazlullah and Mohammad discussed the deal on enforcing Shariah and efforts to restore peace in Swat. Fazlullah agreed with Mohammad's efforts to enforce Islamic laws, he said.

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