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43 Slain During Shiite Rites in Pakistan

March 03, 2004|From Associated Press

QUETTA, Pakistan — Attackers sprayed gunfire and lobbed grenades into a solemn Shiite Muslim religious procession on Tuesday, then blew themselves up.

Pakistani authorities said at least 43 people died and more than 160 were wounded.

Outraged Shiites rioted after the massacre, prompting authorities to call out troops and paramilitary police to quell gun battles and arson. Shiite mobs set fire to a Sunni Muslim mosque and shops.

The attack in Quetta occurred less than two hours after coordinated blasts at Shiite shrines in Iraq killed more than 140 people. The attackers targeted the same religious ceremonies in all three locations.

The bloodshed came on Ashura, the day Shiites mark the death of Imam Hussein, a revered 7th century leader.

In Pakistan, the emotional rites often spark violence between the Sunni Muslim majority and Shiite minority.

As worshipers marched through a congested neighborhood, three gunmen opened fire and hurled grenades at the crowd, said Mayor Abdul Rahim Kakar, who was nearby.

Walking among survivors, the men -- who had explosives lashed to their bodies -- blew themselves up as police moved in, Kakar said. Two attackers were among the dead. The third was in critical condition.

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