02/19/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Quetta, arrests made over massacre of Shiites. Toll climbs to 89 dead

Security forces raided the city this morning, killing four suspected terrorists and arresting seven others. Protests mount against government after February 16 massacre at the general market. In 2012, more than 400 members of the Muslim Shiite minority killed.

Quetta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Pakistani security forces this morning killed four people and arrested seven others, accused of carrying out repeated attacks on minority Shiite Muslims. According to initial reports the targeted group includes the masterminds of the February  16 massacre of hazaras in Quetta, in which at least 89 people died. The Asian country, a large Sunni Muslim majority, is often the scene of violent attacks against members of minority ethnic groups or religions, even Muslims such as the hazara Shiites, Sufis, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.

The security forces carried out an extensive operation in the south-western outskirts of Quetta, where fierce protests erupted involving thousands of members of the Shiite minority. Angered by the slaughter of the last few days, they are demanding greater protection and the deployment of the army.  Moreover they are refusing to bury the victims until the government meets their demands despite the Islamic tradition of burying the deceased within 24/48 hours of their death.

This morning's raid, explain the interior minister of Baluchistan and the head of the Border Guards in a joint statement, is part of an "ongoing operation" to target "high-profile people" involved in the death of "a Shiite judge and senior police officers".

One of the masterminds of the February 16 Hazara massacre at the vegetable market in Quetta, in which at least 89 people were killed and another 200 were injured, is reportedly among those targeted in the raid.  The attack was claimed by the Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), one of the most active and bloodthirsty in the entire nation. The officers also seized bombs, weapons and uniforms. A government delegation is on its way from Islamabad, to attempt mediation to put an end to the Shiite protests involving thousands of people including women and children. Just a few months before elections, discontent with the government is mounting, blamed for allowing insecurity to proliferate and of being unable to stop extremists and the Taliban.

In recent months, there have been several targeted attacks against the Shiite minority in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan. The local nationalist movements, as well as extremist groups, have adopted the technique of massacres, to force the government to hand over more resources from the exploitation of natural gas and minerals in the subsoil. 2012 was one of the bloodiest years to date for Shiites, with a toll of more than 400 deaths in several attacks, including 125 in the province of Baluchistan alone, home to a large hazara presence.

 

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