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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 09:54 GMT
Pakistan's Shias bury their dead
Mourners in Quetta
Mourners accused the authorities of not doing enough to protect them
The funerals have been held of most of the 43 Shias killed in Tuesday's attack in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The burials were delayed in protest over the arrest of 15 Shia youths who are alleged to have rioted after the attack took place.

Many of the mourners chanted slogans against the authorities as the ceremony took place.

Under Shia custom, the funerals should have taken place within 24 hours of the deaths.

Curfew lifted

"We have decided to go ahead with the mass funeral today," local Shia leader Jawad Esar said earlier on Thursday.

A curfew imposed by the authorities since Tuesday was lifted so that the burials could go ahead.

Earlier the authorities released the 15 Shias who were arrested after being accused of rioting in protest over the attack.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is an evil mind behind these attacks
Masood Khan,
foreign ministry spokesman

A BBC correspondent at the funerals said that angry mourners chanted slogans against the provincial and national governments who they say did not do enough to protect them during Tuesday's grenade and gun attack.

Our correspondent says that the atmosphere at the funeral was emotionally charged, with Shia leaders making sure that those feelings did not spill over into violence.

Pakistan's Shia minority and majority Sunnis have a history of violence.

Hundreds of Shia mourners gathered at a mosque in Quetta on Wednesday, wailing and beating their chests in mourning for those killed.

Leaders of the community said Shias had been arrested when they went to hospitals to donate blood.

Shia protestors in Quetta
The atmosphere in Quetta remains tense

"The Quetta incident has exposed the government's claim of taking foolproof security measures in the country for the protection of mourners," said Shia leader Tanveer ul-Kazim.

"We are feeling insecure and unsafe."

The precise events of Tuesday's attacks are still unclear.

One Quetta-based intelligence officer told the AFP agency that two gunmen fired on the procession from the top of a building while a suicide bomber blew himself up.

Two other gunmen started firing at ground level, sparking deadly police crossfire, the officer said.

Another source said there were 13 attackers, while Quetta's deputy police chief Arif Akram said two of them had explosives strapped to their bodies.

One suspect was beaten by a mob and handed over to police, reports said.

Annual Shia festival commemorating martyrdom of Imam Hussein
Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammad, killed at Karbala by army of Caliph Yazid in 680
Faithful strike themselves with chains and swords to atone for Hussein martyrdom
The murder 19 years earlier of Ali, Hussein's father, gave rise to the central schism in Islam between Sunni and Shia

At least five policemen were among those reported dead.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but Shia leaders suspect Sunni extremists, possibly from the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group.

Witnesses said the attackers' guns were painted with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi name.

Tuesday's attack coincided with devastating explosions in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Karbala that left scores dead - these too targeted Shias who had been celebrating Ashura, the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Iraq Shias massacred on holy day
02 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Pakistan's Shia-Sunni divide
06 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Pakistan militants face crackdown
17 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Seven die in Pakistan bus attack
03 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Militants 'claim' Quetta killings
15 Jul 03  |  South Asia


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