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Car Bomb In Pakistan Kills Over 20 Near A Shiite Hall

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A powerful car bomb near a Shiite place of worship in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 22 people and wounded at least 90 others on Friday, breaking a brief lull in militant violence in the restive region, officials said.
 The aftermath of a bombing in Parachinar, Pakistan. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, said a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives near a Shiite ceremonial hall in a crowded marketplace. Credit Reuters

The bombing in Parachinar, the main town of the remote tribal region of Kurram, was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban.

Although Pakistani officials did not confirm that the bombing involved a suicide attacker, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives near a Shiite ceremonial hall, or imambargah, in a crowded marketplace. The bombing occurred before Friday Prayer, and the marketplace was filled with people as they were leaving offices and closing shops.

Asad Mansoor, a spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said the suicide bomber was named Seth Nazir, also known as Ab Durda, from the Mohmand tribal region.

“The explosives-laden vehicle was detonated right in front of the gate of the imambargah,” Mr. Mansoor said in a statement, adding that the site was targeted because local Shiites had been involved in attacks on Sunnis.

Mr. Mansoor said Shiites would be targeted in more deadly attacks.

Hasan Khan, a local official, said by telephone that the bomber’s car had been parked near a gate used by female worshipers.

Shiites have been repeatedly attacked across the country by extremist Sunni militants and the Taliban, stoking a deep sense of insecurity in Pakistan in recent years.

The Kurram region borders Afghanistan, and Parachinar has a long history of sectarian violence. The Shiite population of the town, mostly belonging to the Turi tribe, has repeatedly been attacked by Taliban militants.

Local television news networks broadcast images of a narrow street filled with smoke as people carried the wounded and ambulances blared in the background.

Soon after the bombing, angry and bereaved residents held a protest rally. Some protesters placed the dead bodies of their relatives on the road and chanted slogans against the local administration for failing to provide them with adequate security. As protesters started moving toward the offices of the local administration, police officers fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd, wounding at least eight people, Mr. Khan said.

Malik Ali Hassan Turi, a tribal elder, said hundreds took part in the protest. “The security provided to us is totally inadequate,” Mr. Turi said.

“The health facilities are also pathetic,” he said. “The local hospital cannot cope with such tragedies and lacks proper facilities.”

The Pakistani military sent two helicopters to evacuate the wounded to a hospital in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, the military said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing and vowed to defeat the militants. “The network of terrorists has already been broken, and it is our national duty to continue this war until the complete annihilation of the scourge of terrorism from our soil,” Mr. Sharif said in a statement.

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