48 Shias Killed 140 injured in suicide attacks on religious procession in Quetta
03-2-2004

QUETTA, QUETTA, March 3: A judicial injury has been ordered into the tragic incidents of firing and suicide attack on an Ashura procession that claimed 45 lives here on Tuesday.

Forty-five people were killed, more than 160 injured, and over 150 shops and commercial establishments as well as three houses were torched in terrorist attacks and subsequent acts of arson and rioting.

Till late night on Wednesday, the burial was not performed as the community leaders demanded removal of the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps for their alleged involvement in firing.

Chief Minister Jam Mir Mohammad Yousuf asked the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court to appoint a senior judge for conducting the probe, it was officially announced on Wednesday.

Quetta was placed under strict curfew and army troops virtually took over the city soon after the incident. They were patrolling roads and sensitive localities. The administration relaxed curfew from 4pm to 6pm in western parts of the city on Wednesday. There was no relaxation in affected localities.

The tragic incident took place on Liaquat Bazaar when the main Ashura procession moved towards Junction Chowk at around 1:10pm after a short stay at Meezan Chowk.

Witnesses said terrorists first hurled at least two hand- grenades and then opened indiscriminate fire at mourners from a vantage-point on the first floor of a roadside building called Bano Market.

"At least seven people were killed on the spot when grenades exploded and many others injured," Irfan Ali, an eyewitness, told Dawn. According to Irfan, a terrorist then came down and started firing on the procession.

Some people from the procession rushed to Bano Market and tried to capture the terrorists, but they blew themselves up. "Many people died when the terrorists detonated bombs hidden under their clothes," a security official, who was present in the area, said.

Yaqoob Tawasli, a leader of the Imam Jumma Organization, claimed that two terrorists were killed by the mob while another with injuries was handed over to the police. Mr Tawasli said a fourth terrorist, who had left the building and opened fire on the procession, was killed in the blast.

Police officials, however, said that two terrorists were killed in the blast and one was arrested. "They were three. Two were killed and one suspect is in our custody," they said, adding the suspect was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital. The killed terrorists were beyond recognition.

Witnesses said there was a stampede after the attacks in which many people were injured. "Security men and many other people started heavy firing after the terrorists' attack," said a witness, Rehman Khan, adding many people were injured in crossfire. He said some people tried to snatch arms from the security men.

Besides, a heavy exchange of fire was reported on the Mecongy Road between the police and an unruly mob who had tried to attack Imambargah Nasirul Aza. Constable Nisar Shah was killed and many other people were injured.

The armed men then spread to nearby streets and set fire to a newspaper's office on Jamiat Roy Road. Some of the newsprint lying outside the building was burnt. The arsonists also burnt three houses on Arif Road. The residents were saved by the area people.

After the terrorist attacks the police and other security officials 'disappeared' from the scene. The angry mob then attacked closed shops, markets, shopping malls, commercial establishments, hotels, etc.

They ransacked and torched over 150 shops and other buildings, including a cinema-house, a UBL branch and an MCB branch, on Prince Road, Liaquat Bazaar, Masjid Road, Meezan Chowk, Abdul Sattar Road and Mecongy Road.

The fire-brigade was not allowed by the mob to enter the affected localities as a result the burning private and public property was completely gutted. "A security guard of the MCB died of suffocation," hospital sources said, adding his body was recovered from the bank branch on Wednesday.

The situation was brought under control when army troops took control of the city following imposition of an indefinite curfew by the home secretary. Hospital sources confirmed 45 deaths. Five of those killed were police constables. Most of the 160 wounded, including a woman, received bullet injuries on upper parts of their bodies.

"Parts of the bodies of two terrorists were brought to the hospital," a doctor at the civil hospital said. All government offices, banks and other institutions remained closed on Wednesday. District Nazim Mohammad Rahim Kakar announced that all schools, scheduled to reopen on March 3 after two-and-a-half months winter vacations, would remain close till March 5.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at Imambargah Nachari, where 32 bodies were placed, Allama Syed Jan Ali Kazmi announced that the victims would be buried until the government removed the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps who were allegedly involved in firing.

Preliminary investigations showed suicide bombers had come from some other province and they were not locals, the chief minister said.

"It was a suicide attack in which two attackers blew themselves up, Jam Yousuf said. One terrorist had been arrested and was being interrogated, he added. The chief minister condemned the incident. The injured were taken to the Sandeman civil hospital, the CMH and two private hospitals.

Sources said that majority of the victims succumbed to injuries in hospitals. The condition of some 15 injured was stated to be serious. The police and other agencies were investigating as to how terrorists reached a building on the procession route despite the tight security arrangements the administration had made to ensure safety on Ashura. The police have recovered weapons, from a room in the Bano Market, believed to have been used by the terrorists.

Quetta was the site of one of the deadliest acts of sectarian violence in years in Pakistan. Attackers armed with machine-guns and grenades stormed a Shiite Muslim mosque there in July, killing 50 worshippers inside.

Police said a leading suspect in the July attack is the brother-in-law of al-Qaida terrorist Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Shiites are a substantial minority in Quetta. Sectarian violence runs strong in Quetta's Baluchistan province, where radical Islamic groups share power with more moderate Sunni parties.

Allama Hassan Turabi, a senior Pakistani Shiite leader, demanded that Musharraf - who has repeatedly vowed to defeat extremism in the Islamic country - sack government officials, including the interior minister, for failing to prevent Tuesday's attack.

"This is not the first attack against us. Our people are not safe at homes. They are not safe in mosques," he said by telephone from Karachi.

Security had been stepped up nationwide in anticipation of Muharram, a month of mourning when Shiite Muslims recall the seventh-century death of Hussein, grandson of Islam's prophet, Muhammad.

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Quetta killings: eight suspects held
06-03-2004

QUETTA: Police on Saturday arrested eight people for alleged links to suicide attackers whose assault on an Ashura procession in Quetta had killed 44 people and wounded 160 others, police officials said.

The men were picked up in raids on their homes in the city’s Saryab neighbourhood and were suspected to be members of two banned outfits, a police investigator in the case, who declined to be named, told The Associated Press.

Another Quetta police official, who also requested anonymity, confirmed the arrests.

The investigator named the two groups as Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Police have previously said they suspect Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was behind Tuesday’s attack. The arrests came as authorities released sketches of two men, not among the eight arrested, who are suspected to have masterminded the assault.

Rahmatullah Niazi, the city police chief, said the two were among several men who rented an apartment overlooking the procession route.

The investigator said that in a widening probe into Tuesday’s attack, police teams had been sent to several other areas in Balochistan looking for more suspects.

Niazi said the government has offered a reward of Rs 1 million for any information leading to the arrest of the two men in the sketches.

Our Quetta correspondent adds: Law and order situation in Quetta remained under control as curfew continued on the fifth consecutive day on Saturday with break of four hours in central parts of the provincial metropolis, while there was a 10-hour break in curfew in the suburbs.

In Mezan Chowk, Mecongy Road, Prince Road, Abdul Sattar Road, Liaquat bazaar, Masjid Road, Jinnah Road, Soruj Gunj Bazaar Street and Kassi Road, there was a break in the curfew from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Whereas in Satellite Town Brewery Road, Hazara Town, Joint Road and Zarghoon Road there was break in curfew from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. During the break there were traffic jams on all the city’s roads for several hours.

10 nominated in Quetta killings
06-03-2004

QUETTA, March 5: The Shia Conference of Balochistan and the people of the Hazara tribe, including heirs of the Quetta killings victims, jointly lodged a report on Friday with the City police station , nominating 10 people in connection with the incident.

Representatives of both the groups, police said, visited the police station and handed over a written complaint to the SP, City, calling for registration of an FIR in this regard. The 10 people nominated by them included leaders of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba, senior officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and other police officers.

SP City Israr Abbasi, while confirming that a written reported had been filed by the people of the Hazara tribe, said that a decision regarding FIR registration had not yet been taken, adding a decision in this regard would be taken by senior officials.

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Govt rejects charge of 'police killings' in Quetta
06-03-2004

ISLAMABAD, March 5: Responding to an unabated disquiet in the Senate, the government on Friday rejected charges that its own forces had shot most of the people killed during Tuesday's Ashura mourning procession in Quetta.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat also invited opposition to give suggestions to help the government improve security situation in the country as the role of police and other security agencies in handling the Quetta incident came under sharp criticism for the second successive sitting of the upper house within three days.

"It is totally wrong, it is absolutely untrue,...," he said about the charges by the opposition Senators and Shia community leaders in Quetta that more than 30 people were killed in police and Anti-Terrorist Force firing while others were killed by suicide attackers.

The minister put the death toll so far at 44, which he said was not final and could rise as about 150 wounded people were still in hospital. Thirty-eight bodies had been buried while the rest were lying in hospital unclaimed.

Mr Hayat said law-enforcement agencies had shown "maximum restraint" in the face of violence by protesters who went on a rampage after the attack on the mourning procession by what the government calls suicide-bombers and added: "The (casualty) figure would have been much higher if they (forces) had opened fire."

The minister side-stepped opposition charges of lapses by law- enforcement agencies, saying he would not blame any agency before the report of a judicial inquiry ordered by the Balochistan provincial government. Opposition Senators said their allegations of police killings were based on media reports and information from relatives of the victims.

They seemed to be dissatisfied with the minister's statement and continued to raise protesting voices, which provoked counter- protests from the treasury benches and a furore that was cut short by the muezzin's call for Friday prayers, after which Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro adjourned the house until another sitting in the afternoon to resume the continuing debate on President Pervez Musharraf's Jan 17 speech to parliament.

PPP parliamentary party leader Raza Rabbani accused the government of failing to provide facts and called a mere cover-up statement in the Senate by Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday that blamed all deaths on three alleged suicide attackers, two of whom were reported to have blown themselves up and the third was injured and arrested.

He said the Quetta incident should be seen in the context of a recent military operation against alleged terrorists outside Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan tribal agency, and a US State Department report alleging increased custodial killings in Pakistan.

Mr Rabbani, who also leads the 22-seat parliamentary group of the opposition Democratic Alliance in the Senate, accused the government of failing to maintain law and order and said there appeared to "no writ of state".

He wanted the government to explain its state of preparedness in Quetta before Tuesday's incident, why its strategy, if any, failed, why police took more than five hours to control violence, and how long the inquiry by a high court judge as ordered by the provincial government would take to make its report and what were its terms of reference.

Prof Khurshid Ahmed of MMA wanted to know the role of intelligence agencies in the matter and reasons of their perceived failure. Mr Hayat said all possible measures "within available resources" were taken, with paramilitary and police forces spread in whole of Quetta to provide a security cover to several mourning processions organized for the Ashura mourning.

But he said even billions of dollars spent by more resourceful countries had unable to prevent suicide attacks like "an act against civilized humanity" in Quetta. He said the government would have to make "a new strategy" to plug loopholes and called for opposition proposals.

"If they have any positive proposals to improve security, they should bring them (to us)," he said of opposition Senators who, he complained had so far only made critical speeches but not come forward with substantive plans.

"It is a war of all patriotic people of Pakistan who want to have a peaceful society in the country,", he said of the government's campaign against terrorism and religious extremism. "We want to stop such (terrorist) people and elements and institutions backing them."

Refering Site Govt rejects charge of 'police killings' in Quetta
08-03-2004

QUETTA, March 8: The Muttihada Majlis-i-Amal and a prominent Shia religious personality have blamed the federal agencies and fanatics responsible for the loss of human lives and destruction of property in Quetta on March 2.

They have urged the people to frustrate the designs of the conspirators by forging unity and solidarity in their ranks. Speaking at a joint news conference at MPA hostel on Sunday, MMA Balochistan chief Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, MNA, and Allama Yaqoob Ali Tawasoli, Imam of Jumma, announced that there was no dispute between Sunnis and Shias but invisible forces were dividing the followers of both the sects.

The two leaders condemned the killing of innocent people and destruction of property by terrorists and miscreants. Maulana Sherani alleged that 'agencies' were behind the armed extremist groups who were using fanatics for their ulterior motives by creating hatred between Sunnis and Shais.

He maintained that ulema of both the sects were addressing a joint press conference which "proves that there is no conflict between us." He stated that the MMA had a clear policy that did not accept armed groups, whether they be Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Muhammad, Sipah-i-Sahaba, Ansarul Islam or Mujihad group.

He added that federal institutions were patronizing the extremist factions who were out to create disorder in society. Responding to a question, the MMA leader, whose party is a coalition partner in the provincial government, said law and order was directly controlled by the federal government in the new district government system.

The provincial government, he said, had a minimum role, "so it should not be held responsible for the March 2 incident." About the possibility of governor's rule being imposed in the province, the Maulana said if the government wanted to disintegrate the country then Pakistan's name would be replaced with another name but we would be living in our homes with a new name.

He said the JUI-F had been successful in foiling the conspiracy of creating hatred between Pashtoons and Balochs in the province. Similarly, he said, "we would frustrate the designs of extremists to pit Sunnis and Shias against each other."

Allama Yaqoob Ali Tawasoli, Imam of Jumma, blamed the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi for the Ashura-day attack. He said the Kalashnikov recovered from the scene of the tragedy was inscribed with the name of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

When reminded that federal interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat had denied in the Senate that security forces had killed most people, Allama Tawasoli said the minister was uttering a lie.

He added: "We would produce evidence of security forces killing people before the Judicial Commission probing the incident." Allama Tawasoli declared that Shia followers fully believed in the unity of the Muslims but extremists and fanatics were indulging in the terrorist acts. It was the responsibility of the government to eliminate the saboteurs' network.

Those present on the occasion included MNA Maulana Noor Muhammad, Allama Juma Asadi, Syed Ashraf Zaidi, President Shia Conference, Balochistan, Maulana Wasay, senior minister, and Colonel (retd) Younus Chengazi, minister for forests.

AFP adds: A bloodbath which left 47 people dead after an attack on a religious procession in Quetta was mostly caused by security forces, a government minister said on Monday. "Most of the killings were caused by police fire instead of attack by terrorists," Younas Changezi sports minister for surrounding Balochistan told AFP.



Refering Site Religious scholar warns of protests
14-03-2004

QUETTA, March 14: Allama Maqsood Ali Domki, chief of Jafaria Alliance Balochistan, has warned that if the government did not accept their demands they will be compelled to turn the Chehlum of Quetta martyrs killed in an attack on the Ashura procession into a protest movement.

Speaking at a news conference at press club here on Sunday, he bitterly criticized the arrest of Allama Ali Jan Kazmi, saying that "Kazmi should have been apprehended at the time when he entered Quetta on March 3 and not when he was returning back to Karachi in a PIA flight on Saturday."

Alleging that the government was intentionally making the situation worse in the province, he said Allama Kazmi's detention was unjustified and resentment and anguish prevailed in Millat-i-Jafaria over his arrest.

Allama Domki condemned government's inappropriate steps to eliminate the network of the terrorists who had been involved in the attacks on Sardar Nasir Ali Hazara and others on June 8, July 4 and Ashura procession.



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Quetta Ashura attack bombers identified as LJ activists
16-05-2004

QUETTA: Two suicide bombers involved in a deadly attack on a Shiite religious procession here over two months ago have been identified as members of an outlawed militant group, police said on Sunday.

Police have also arrested a constable, Ghulam Haider Lehri who allegedly aided the bombers in the March 2 attack on an Ashura procession in Quetta, provincial police chief Shoaib Suddle told reporters at a press conference here.

"Police managed to identify the two suicide attackers of Ashura procession and five other suspects," he said. He said the attackers belonged to the banned militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ).Lehri has admitted he had been "arranging meetings of top LJ leaders at his residence for planning such terrorist activities," Suddle said.

According to him, other participants of preparatory meetings for the Quetta Ashura attack were Abdul Aziz, Sher Ahmad, Muhammad Jan, Muhammad Dilshad and Commander Manzoor Ahmad.

The attack left 48 people dead including six policemen. It started when two gunmen on top of a building opened indiscriminate fire at the same time as suicide bombers walked into the crowd and blew themselves up.

Suddle identified the bombers as Abdul Nabi and Hidayatullah, who he said blew up themselves with hand grenades. He said investigators recovered a computer CD in which "the terrorists were shown announcing their war against the Shiites".

"After completing our mission we will meet in heaven," one of the attackers said on the CD. The blood samples taken from the mutilated bodies of the bombers matched the DNA tests of their close relatives who were traced by intelligence agencies on April 11, he added.

He said five other co-accused included Daud Badini and Usman Saifullah, both wanted in previous sectarian violence in Balochistan and expressed confidence they would be arrested soon. Local Shiite leader Ashraf Zaidi expressed "satisfaction" over the probe saying that he hoped police would be able to dismantle the "terrorist network" in the province.



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Security lapses blamed for Quetta carnage: Report on attack on procession released
29-6-2004

QUETTA, June 29: The Balochistan government on Tuesday released the report of a tribunal which investigated the Quetta Ashura carnage. The report blames lapses on the part of security agencies for the tragic incident.

It also says that a number of participants of the procession were armed. Provincial Home Minister Mir Shoaib Nausherwani presented the findings and recommendations of the tribunal at a press conference. Home Secretary Abdul Rauf Khan and Capital City Police Officer Rafi Pervez Bhatti were present on the occasion.

The tribunal was set up by the provincial government to probe into the terrorist attack on the procession in which 40 people were killed and over 150 were injured. The tribunal was headed by the Balochistan High Court judge, Justice Akhtar Zaman Malghani.

The report said the administration took the entire affair as a matter of routine, ignoring terrorist incidents which had occurred in different parts of the country at that time. They neither had any strategy to combat such a situation nor did they work out a plan after the attack to handle the situation, the report added.

The report said that during the investigation, police was able to exactly identify any individual or group who had carried out attack. However, the arms and ammunitions recovered had inscription of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which shows that most probably the attack was carried by members of the banned organization.

The procession was attacked by three people who were Brahvi. The tribunal also described the role of Anti-Terrorist Force and police, and absolved the ATF from the charge of being involved in the firing on the mourners.

It observed that the ATF personnel had apprehended some of the protesters along with arms and handed them over to police, which shows that if the ATF carried out any firing, was not without any justification. They were compelled to do so under the circumstances to protect themselves, it added.

According to the report, Mr Nausherwani said that people who looted, burnt and ransacked property after the terrorist attack were participants of the procession and were armed with different kinds of weapons. Failure of security agencies to prevent the looting and arson was a security lapse, he added.

The tribunal also made recommendations for preventing such incidents in future. The home minister said that it had recommended efforts to promote cordial relations among the people belonging to different schools of thought.

The tribunal also recommended that intelligence and other investigation capacity be enhanced in order to trace and punish perpetrators of sectarian violence and preachers of extremism. It also calls for action against members of banned organizations under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.

It says that the route of the procession be described after consultations with notables and ulema of both the sects to minimize security threats and at the start of Muharram, certificates be obtained from owners of buildings situated along the procession route and thorough inspections should be conducted by intelligence agencies.

It further recommended that law-enforcement agencies and other authorities concerned should after consultations with the organizers of the procession, ensure that none of the participants of the procession was armed.

The tribunal also suggested establishment of a central command and control centre with an adequate number of wireless sets for communication with all the forces deployed along the route.

After the devolution of power, ASP/DSP authorized to open fire as a last resort in order to disperse assembly, but in Balochistan this power was entrusted to DAOs and ADAOs under amended ordinance, the tribunal observed and recommended that either this power be re-entrusted to SPs, ASPs/ DSPs or the presence of DAO/ADAO should be ensured on such occasions so that in case of any ugly situation appropriate and timely orders could be given.

The police force deployed on such occasions should also pay attention to the aspects of crowd control in case of terrorist attack and, for this purpose, a sufficient force in the form of reserves equipped with tear gas, a public address system, anti-riot equipment was required, the tribunal further recommended.

Replying to a question the home minister said that the government would fully implement the report and suggestions of the tribunal. He said that action would also be taken against those whom the tribunal had held responsible for the incident.

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