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Shias massacred again

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    Shias massacred again

    Grief, rage among victims of Pak sectarian attack

    AFP [ WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2002 2:07:48 AM ]

    AWALPINDI: Blood and bullets were in place of worshippers Tuesday at the Shah-Najaf mosque in Pakistan, after suspected extremists ended prayers with a hail of gunfire and killed 10 people.

    As the Shiite Muslims knelt to pray in this mosque in a poor residential area of Rawalpindi, a city of two million next to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, two gunmen got off their motorcycles and barged in.

    Locking the door behind them, the gunmen walked past a row of faucets worshippers use to cleanse themselves before prayer.

    Then they opened fire indiscriminately from their automatic weapons, killing 10 people and wounding 11 more, according to police.

    The mosque, a simple white building that could be mistaken for a house, was eerily quiet just a few hours after the massacre, the worst sectarian attack since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf launched a drive against extremist a month and a half ago.

    Police were stationed outside the mosque, where the prayer rug was covered with patches of blood and the walls were ridden with bullet marks.

    Most of the victims had been rushed to the Holy Family Hospital, a former missionary clinic handed over to the government 30 years ago.

    A group of around 30 angry mourners stood outside the emergency ward venting their anger as police tried to calm them.

    "This blood will count! We want justice! The blood of martyrs will not be wasted," they shouted.

    One woman beat her chest with her hands. "Bring back my son!" she screamed.

    The mood was more sedate inside the hospital's lobby, where several dozen people waited nervously for news of their relatives, many of them weeping.

    Sitting on a bench under the dim lights, Gulzar Ahmed Kazmi, a 59-year-old government employee, tried not to let out his tears.

    He lost his 22-year-old son, Kamran, in the shooting. Another son, Imran, 25, was critically wounded.

    "I want justice. We want to be peaceful but our patience is running out. This is our limit," Kazmi said at the hospital. "I will not weep. It (the killing) is mindless and senseless."

    Another man, who declined to give his name, said he had already lost his father to sectarian violence in a murder two years ago.

    "Words aren't enough. We're waiting for the government to take measures," he said.

    Kazmi tried to remain calm and not show anger. But he also believed the government must do more to protect Pakistan's Shiite Muslim minority.

    "The government has failed to protect us. The terrorist groups Sipah-i-Sahaba (of Pakistan) and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi have been killing us for many years now. They are being sponsored by foreign countries," he said.

    He was referring to charges the banned Sunni Muslim groups receive funding from other Islamic countries.

    Sipah-i-Sahaba was among five extremist groups outlawed by Musharraf on January 12 when he pledged in a speech to rid Pakistan of extremists. Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, an offshoot of Sipah-i-Sahaba, was banned in August.

    Most of the 2,000 people detained since Musharraf's speech have been Sipah-i-Sahaba members.

    Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is blamed for the bulk of Pakistan's sectarian killings since its founding in 1994. It is headed by Riaz Basra, one of Pakistan's most wanted men, who carries a $87,000 bounty on his head.

    Basra had lived in neighboring Afghanistan under the protection of the extremist Taliban until the regime was routed last year by a US-led military campaign and opposition attacks.

    Sipah-i-Sahaba's chief, Maulana Azam Tariq, was placed under house arrest at the start of the US strikes in Afghanistan as the government moved to quash opponents of its cooperation with Washington.