Pakistani protesters refuse to bury dead, demand protection

Updated 19 February 2013
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Pakistani protesters refuse to bury dead, demand protection

QUETTA, Pakistan: Thousands of Pakistani women refused for a second day yesterday to bury victims of a devastating bomb attack on their community, demanding protection against record levels of sectarian violence.
Demonstrators poured onto the streets across the country, shutting down the largest city Karachi and closing the road from the capital to Islamabad airport, in angry protest at Saturday’s bombing that killed at least 81 people in Quetta.
Up to 4,000 women blocked a road in the southwestern city, vowing to continue their sit-in that began late Sunday until the authorities take action against the extremists behind the attack which also wounded 178 people.
Two girls aged seven and nine were among the dead after the bomb, nearly a ton of explosives hidden in a water tanker, tore through a crowded market in a neighborhood dominated by ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslims.
The attack came just over a month after suicide bombers killed 92 people at a snooker hall in another Hazara neighborhood of Quetta. Protesters are furious at the authorities’ failure to tackle rising attacks on Shiites.
Volunteers armed with automatic rifles and pistols yesterday guarded the streets of Hazara town, the scene of Saturday’s attack, an AFP reporter saw.
Police said they were in talks to end the protest. But a local Shiite party leader, Qayyum Changezi, said they “will not bury the dead until a targeted operation is launched.”
After the Jan. 10 snooker hall attack, Shiite mourners staged a similar protest for four days. They only buried the dead after Islamabad sacked the provincial government and imposed governor’s rule in an apparent attempt to improve law and order.
The banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility both for Saturday’s attack and the snooker hall bombing, as well as a Feb. 1 attack on a Shiite mosque in northwest Pakistan that killed 24.
There is anger and frustration at the apparent inability or unwillingness of the authorities to tackle the LeJ.
In Quetta Amin Shaheedi, the vice-president of the Shiite Wahdatul Muslemeen party, demanded control of the city be handed over to the army.
“Terrorists are roaming freely and we are not given any protection. Our protest will continue till we get protection,” he told reporters.
Violence between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims and Shiites, who account for around a fifth of the country’s 180 million people, has surged in recent years, with the southwestern province of Baluchistan a particular flashpoint.
Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial heart Karachi came to a halt as public transport workers and traders stopped work yesterday after a Shiite party called a protest strike, residents said.
Schools were closed, traffic was off the roads and attendance in offices was thin. Several political and religious parties have backed the strike call.
Protesters on the edge of the capital Islamabad also shut down the main road leading to the airport, witnesses told AFP.
In the second largest city Lahore, hundreds of Shiites including women and children demonstrated to press demands for military action against extremists in Quetta.
Attacks targeting Shiites in Pakistan have claimed almost 200 lives already this year, compared with more than 400 in the whole of 2012 — a year which Human Rights Watch described as the deadliest on record for Shiites.
Pakistan is due to hold a general election in coming months but there are fears that rising sectarian and Islamist violence could force the postponement of polls.
In the northwest, suicide bombers stormed the offices of a top Pakistani official yesterday and killed five people.
Mutahir Zeb, the government’s representative in the semi-autonomous tribal district of Khyber, was unhurt. But his deputy was seriously wounded in the attack as officials in the city of Peshawar discussed preparations for the elections.


Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

Updated 22 min 11 sec ago
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Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

  • Man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial
  • Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: A man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the “brutal murder of four foreign cyclists” had begun in the suspect’s high-security detention center.
Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.
The victims were struck by a car as they cycled along the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.
Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.
A video of the five men pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was released by an official Daesh media channel.
Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party — the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan — that was banned by the government in 2015.
The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.
Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.
A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.
In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.