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Pakistani Shia end protest over bus blast

Protests by more than 2,000 people over attack in Balochistan ends after the government assures protection of minority.

Last updated: 24 Jan 2014 09:07
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The armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has targeted the Hazara ethnic minority for several years [AFP]

Members of a largely Shia ethnic community in Pakistan have agreed to bury the bodies of relatives killed in a bomb attack, ending a protest against a lack of security.

A Shia leader said on Friday that a protest by more than 2,000 people ended after the government assured them protection.

Grief-stricken Hazara mourners had refused to inter their dead after a roadside blast on Tuesday hit a bus around 60 kilometres west of Quetta, killing 28 pilgrims returning from Iran.

The protesters had blocked a major road in the capital of a restive Balochistan province with coffins to protest against increasing violence targeting the minority community.

We will bring the terrorists to book.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the interior minister

Abdul Khaliq Hazara, chairman of Hazara Democratic Party, said on Friday the victims would be buried later in the day.

"We thank all the people who held protest demonstrations across the country to express their solidarity with us," he added.

There were also demonstrations in Karachi and the Punjab cities of Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi, against what protesters called the 'genocide' of Pakistani Shia.

Refusing to bury bodies is an extreme statement in Islamic society, where it is customary to inter the dead as soon as possible.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who met with protesters said a targeted operation would be conducted against those behind the bombing.

"We will bring the terrorists to book," saying all efforts would be made to restore order in the province.

The armed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

Regarded as the most extreme Sunni terror group in Pakistan and accused of killing hundreds of Shia since its emergence in the 1990s, LeJ has targeted the Hazara ethnic minority in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, for several years.

A Human Rights Watch report this week said LeJ operated "virtual impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks".

More than 400 Shia were killed in targeted attacks across the country in 2013, the rights group said.

Shia Muslims make up around 20 percent of Pakistan's population, which is largely Sunni Muslim.

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