Security has been stepped up

Prime Minister Zafur Allah Khan Jamali said investigators found evidence of involvement of “foreign hands” in the suicide attack against the Shia mosque. He did not elaborate.

Humayun Jogezai, deputy police chief in Balochistan province of which Quetta is the capital, said police rounded up members of outlawed Sunni groups in overnight raids.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told reporters on Saturday that “the possibility of cross-border attacks cannot be ruled out”.

Pakistani commentators suggested the mosque attack could be linked to neighbouring Afghanistan where US soldiers continue to fight remnants of the Taliban.

A night-time curfew remains in place in the southwestern city near the Afghan border, as tensions between Shia and majority Sunni Muslims remain high.

Jogezai said investigators were analysing material found on the bodies of the three attackers and trying to discover their nationalities.

The three men had wheeled a trolley up to the gate of the mosque during Friday prayers before pulling guns from under a cover and opening fire on worshippers, said police.

All three had grenades strapped to their waists and two blew themselves up. A third, who did not, died of wounds sustained when guards returned fire.

The attack was the worst in Pakistan for years. No group has claimed responsibility.

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Meanwhile, Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadal Allah, a leader of the Shia community in Lebanon, called on Muslim clerics to issue religious decrees forbidding attacks similar to the one in Quetta.

“We ask clerics from across the Muslim world to issue fatwas (religious decrees) forbidding, in the strongest possible terms, criminal acts such as that which targeted  peaceful worshippers in Quetta,” said Fadal Allah in a statement.

“Such acts are the result of underdevelopment, ignorance and misinformation and are exploited by forces that seek to spread discord between Sunni and Shia Muslims,” he said.

The attack was the second in a month in Quetta against the ethnic Hazara Shia community. 

Hundreds of people have been killed in Pakistan in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in recent years.