Suicide bomber strikes Shiite shrine in Pakistan, killing 16

Pakistani devotees gather around the bodies of blast victims after a suicide bombing near a sufi shrine in the Gandawa area of Jhal Magsi district on October 5, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Suicide bomber strikes Shiite shrine in Pakistan, killing 16

QUETTA, Pakistan: A suicide bomber struck a Shiite shrine packed with worshippers in a remote village in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 16 people and wounding 30 in an apparent sectarian attack, a provincial government spokesman and the police said.
The attacker detonated his explosives vest when he was stopped for a routine search by a police officer guarding the shrine in the village of Jhal Magsi, about 400 kilometers (240 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Anwarul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition.
Mohammad Iqbal, a district police chief, said five children, a woman and one police officer were among those killed in the bombing.
Hundreds of devotees were present at the shrine for a monthly gathering when the bomber hit. Local TV footage showed people crying for help in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Just hours earlier, Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the military had received credible reports of upcoming terror attacks. Ghafoor told a news conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that the government has been alerted about possible attacks.
Though no one claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombing, Sunni extremists have carried out many such attacks in the past, targeting minority Shiite Muslims in Baluchistan and elsewhere in the country. Sunni extremists perceive Shiites as apostates who should be killed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack.
In a statement, he said that “terrorists have no religion” and that his government will act against militants with full might.
In June, at least 75 Shiite Muslims were killed in twin bombings at a market in Parachinar in the country’s northwest. At the time, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian Sunni extremist group, claimed the bombings in Parachinar, which is a majority Shiite town.
In February, a Daesh suicide bomber struck inside a famed Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province, killing 88 worshippers as they performed a devotional dance known as “dhamal.”
Baluchistan, which shares a border with Sindh province, has also been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists and separatists demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources such as gas and oil. However, militants have also carried out scores of attacks in the province.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 50 min 50 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.