Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Balochistan is observing three days of mourning to commemorate the victims of the series of attacks that have hit Quetta, capital of the southwestern province of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan. The largest number of victims was caused by a double explosion in a pool hall: 81 dead and another 120 wounded, some of them seriously. Earlier, a bomb exploded in a market, killing 11 people and wounding 27 others. Also yesterday in Mingora, in the Swat Valley, in the north-west of the country, 21 people were killed (80 wounded) in a powerful explosion.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the multiple attacks and the continuing climate of violence in Pakistan. The bombing of the gaming hall took place in an area of Quetta inhabited mostly by Shiites and was claimed by the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The previous attack on the market was instead the work of the United Baloch Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
The massacre has shocked the country, and caused dismay and anger, although in Pakistan - an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation - bomb blasts and violence against minority groups, including the Shias, is now daily news. For local media it is a real "blood bath."
Pakistani policy experts speak of a sectarian matrix behind the attacks, targeting the Shiite community. A growing phenomenon in the country, which last year cost more than 400 lives. Activists and human rights groups point the finger at the government, "accomplice" of the massacres because "unable" to ensure the safety and "protect the population" from the violence of Sunni militant groups.
Balochistan is a province characterized both by an internal separatist struggle and by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. Near the Afghan border, there is also a strong presence of Taliban groups, which are also the authors of massacres and attacks. A senior government official in Islamabad, speaking anonymously, told the BBC that the attacks are in "reaction" to two episodes that took place on January 9th: the killing of a Sunni religious leader and seizure of weapons and ammunition in a bunker used - most likely - by the militants of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.