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Suicide blast kills 23 Shiite Muslims in Pakistan
Suicide bomber kills 23 Shiite Muslims in market in northwest Pakistani town
By The Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) ' A suicide attacker on a motorcycle blew himself up in a market in a Pakistani town close to the Afghan border on Friday, killing 23 Shiite Muslims and wounding 50 people, officials said.

Violence by Sunni extremists against Shiites is common in Pakistan, a Muslim country dominated by Sunnis but home to a sizeable Shiite minority. Although attacks by Shiites against Sunnis do occur, such violence is not as prevalent.

Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban often believe Shiites are infidels and that it is permissible or even praiseworthy to kill them. The emergence of those groups in the country over the last 10 years has added to the frequency and viciousness of attacks against Shiites.

Local government administrator Wajid Ali said the bomber struck in a market in the northwestern town of Parachinar.

Many of the 23 dead were shoppers or people with stalls in the market, he said.

After the attack, security forces fired on crowds protesting the attack, killing three people, said Ali.

A local Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, claimed responsibility for the attack in Parachinar, a mostly Shiite town in northwest Pakistan. He justified the attack by saying that Shiites had been attacking Sunnis.

Parachinar and the nearby region of Kurram have been plagued by sectarian violence for several years. Shiites have been the overwhelming victims.

Pakistan has seen hundreds of suicide attacks over the last five years, mostly by militants in the northwest close to the Afghan border who have given haven to al-Qaida operatives and insurgents fighting in Afghanistan. The army has responded with several offensives, but have had limited success in a country where extremists have significant support among the population.


Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this report from Dera Ismail Khan.

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