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article image33 Killed in Suspected Sectarian Attack in Pakistan

By Chris Dade     Sep 18, 2009 in World
At least 33 people have been killed and many more injured after a suicide bomber attacked a hotel, close to a market place, in a village in the Kohat district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.
Responsibility for the attack, many of the victims of which were Shia Muslims, has been claimed by a group calling itself Lahskar-e-Jhangvi al Almi.
The group, which according to the BBC is thought to have links with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an organization with connections to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda and whose members were involved in the deaths of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has stated that the attack was revenge for the death of a prominent religious leader.
The leader in question, Maulana M Amin, was killed in the town of Hangu, also in the North West Frontier Province, in June. Hangu was the scene in August of a clash between militants and Pakistani security forces which resulted in the deaths of at least 16 terrorists, reportedly including two Chechens.
Friday's bombing in the village of Astarzai follows an explosion in the city of Kohat on Thursday which injured six people.
Reporting that the bombing in Astarzai has been condemned in a statement issued by Yousuf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Times of India adds that the district of Kohat is no stranger to violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda and their associate groups are Sunnis and Pakistan is a predominantly Sunni country but Kohat does have a considerable Shia presence too. And it was a Shia Muslim whose hotel was attacked today, hence the suspicion that the attack was sectarian.
It has been confirmed that the suicide bomber was in a vehicle when the attack was carried out. Several other cars were destroyed in the attack and a number of nearby buildings were virtually demolished. Many of the dead and injured were trapped under the rubble of those buildings.
With the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset, due to end very shortly the market place where the bombing occurred was full of people buying supplies in readiness for Eid ul-Fitr, a festival which takes place on the first day after Ramadan and celebrates the breaking of the fast.
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