Dozens of Mourners Killed by Militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan

More Senseless Killing

More Senseless KillingsThe living were honoring the dead on both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday when militant bombers struck, killing at least 44 people in two attacks that coincided with one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar.

The heaviest toll was inflicted in the Pakistani city of Quetta, in western Baluchistan Province, where at least 30 people died in a suicide attack at the funeral of a policeman who had been killed just hours earlier.   Reporters in Quetta described scenes of chaos and devastation after this attack where at least 21 officers were killed, including a deputy chief in charge of field operations, Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal.

At the eastern end of the border, in the Afghan province of Nangarhar, a bomb exploded at a graveyard where people had gathered to pay their respects to a slain relative. Fourteen women and children from the same family were killed.

Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the Quetta attack and said that the group would continue to target police officials, according to local news media outlets.

The attack underscored the fragile security situation in the once peaceful provincial capital. In recent years, the city has found itself on the fault-line of several conflicts that plague Baluchistan Province and, more broadly, all of Pakistan.

Sectarian militants have carried out large attacks on minority Shiites in Quetta, while Baluch nationalists have singled out the security forces. Residents have reported a rise in kidnappings by both militant and criminal groups.

Moreover, the Afghan Taliban takes shelter in the villages the north of the city, using them as a base to mount attacks on Afghan and Western troops inside Afghanistan.

Thursday’s bloodshed started with the assassination of a junior police official, Muhib Ullah. He was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen as he made his way to the  market;  four of his children were also wounded.

As is often the case in Quetta, the assailants escaped unharmed.

Hours later, as the city’s police leadership gathered for Mr. Ullah’s funeral in the Police Lines, a relatively secure district that houses police and provincial officials, a suicide bomber slipped through the security cordon and detonated his explosives.

The continuing spate of violence has rattled the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who ordered the country’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, to visit Quetta soon.  Sharif also asked the interior minister to present the final draft of a much-awaited national counter-terrorism strategy on August 30.

Critics say the lack of such a strategy has resulted in widespread confusion and lack of consensus about how to deal with the terrorists.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians urged the government to immediately convene a national conference of all political parties to come to a policy consensus. “The delay is causing more acts of terrorism,” said Syed Khurshid Shah, an opposition lawmaker belonging to Pakistan Peoples Party.

The attack in Afghanistan occurred in Ghanikhel District, near the border with Pakistan. The victims were visiting the grave of a relative on the first day of Id al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Provincial authorities said a bomb apparently planted on a grave exploded once the family gathered around it.

“My family is finished,” Haji Ghalib, a relative of the victims, told The Associated Press. “These people are inhuman.”

Suspicion fell on the Taliban insurgency, which the United Nations says is responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  The 14 victims, who were evenly split between women and children, had been visiting the grave of an elder who was assassinated by the Taliban this year.

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, denounced the bombing as “a cowardly act by the enemies of the people of Afghanistan who are not part of any religion.”

By:  Landi Bezuidenhout

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