PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from a pair of overnight bombings at a busy market in a Shiite-dominated region of northwest Pakistan rose to 57, officials said Saturday.
As many as 167 people were also wounded in Friday’s apparent sectarian attacks in the town of Parachinar, which sits in the Kurram tribal area that borders Afghanistan to the west, hospital official Shabir Hussain and Shiite leader Hamid Ali said.
Hussain said almost all the dead and wounded were Shiites. There was no claim of responsibility, but authorities have blamed militant groups belonging to the Sunni Muslim majority for previous gun and bomb attacks against the Shiite minority.
Ali said the market was full of Shiites, who were buying items for their evening meal that breaks the daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan. “We demand protection. We request the government to take action against those who routinely kill our people,” he told The Associated Press.
Another doctor Zahid Hussain earlier said the dead bodies quickly overwhelmed Parachinar’s main hospital, where a large numbers of people sought medical attention after the blasts. “We have no place to keep the wounded,” he said late Friday. “Many of them are lying on the hospital floor and on the lawn.”
The apparently coordinated bombs hit the main bazaar as people were doing their evening shopping before the iftar meal, police spokesman Fazal Naeem Khan said. One bomb was believed to have been planted on a motorcycle, he said.
The second bomb detonated about four minutes after the first, about 400 yards (365 meters) away from the initial blast, according to government official Javed Ali.
One man, Said Hussain, who was in the area where the second blast struck, reported seeing a teenage boy shout “God is great!” just moments before the explosion.
Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent of the population Shiite. Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.
Meanwhile, assailants attacked a Pakistani border guard post in a remote southwestern town early Saturday, killing seven security personnel and wounding as many others, senior government officer Akbar Hussain Durrani said.
He said the attack took place near Sunsater, near Iran, and authorities were trying to get more details to determine who was behind it.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan from Peshawar, Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Abdul Sattar from Quetta contributed to this report.