Tuesday 19 February 2013
QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistani forces on Tuesday killed four men and arrested seven others accused of killing Shiite Muslims, including an alleged mastermind of a bomb attack that killed 89 people, officials said.
The operation was carried out on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta, where thousands of Shiites are demanding army protection and refusing to bury the victims of Saturday’s bomb attack on their ethnic Hazara community.
“Those who were killed were high-profile target killers,” said the home secretary of Baluchistan province, Akbar Hussain Durrani, adding that one of the masterminds of Saturday’s attack was among those in custody.
It was not immediately clear whether the raid would be enough to persuade Shiite leaders to call off protests, which have spread to Pakistan’s largest city Karachi and forced the closure of the main road to the airport in Islamabad.
The minority community is furious at the authorities’ failure to tackle record violence against Shiites, who make up 20 percent of Pakistan’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 180 million, and prosecute those responsible.
Pakistan is due to hold a general election by mid-May and the sectarian violence, plus a Taleban insurgency in the northwest, has raised questions about the conditions under which polls will be held.
The arrests came just hours before Pakistani cabinet ministers were due to arrive in Quetta to try to negotiate an end to the protest, which has seen thousands of men, women and children camp out since late Sunday.