The South Asia Channel

At least 45 killed in blast targeting Karachi Shi'as

The Rack: Peter Bergen, "What Went Right?" (FP).

Failure to protect

At least 45 people were killed and another 150 injured in a massive explosion targeting one of Karachi's Shi'a Muslim neighborhoods during evening prayers on Sunday. It also badly damaged two nearby apartment buildings and left a crater at least 10 feet around (NYT, Reuters, AP, Dawn, CNN, BBC, ET). No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the likely perpetrator is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim extremist group that has accelerated its attacks against Pakistani Shi'as in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan in recent months.

Thousands of Shi'a Muslims poured into the streets of Karachi on Monday to mourn loved ones killed in the deadly explosion and demand protection from the government, and the entire city observed a peaceful strike (AP, Dawn, BBC). At one point, unknown gunmen opened fire on the funeral procession for some of those killed in Sunday's blast, wounding at least three people (ET).

Police officials in Balochistant said Saturday that unknown gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a journalist identified as Mahmud Afridi on Friday (RFERL, AP). Afridi was the second journalist to be murdered in Pakistan in just one week. Meanwhile, officials in Pakistan's northwest said Saturday that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had threatened to bomb mobile phone shops in Peshawar for their "shameless" sale of ring tones, video clips, and other accessories (AFP).

Former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf announced Friday that he will be returning to Pakistan within a week after the caretaker government takes control from the ruling Pakistan People's Party ahead of elections (Dawn, Reuters, AP). Musharraf says he plans to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Mistaken identity

Afghan and U.S. military officials said Saturday that a NATO helicopter had accidentally fired on and killed two Afghan boys out collecting firewood in Oruzgan Province (NYT, AP). The newly instated U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford, offered his condolences, and said the troops in the helicopter had mistaken the boys for Taliban. As international forces pull back from combat operations and hand the lead over to Afghan troops, U.S. casualties in Afghanistan have fallen to their lowest point in five years (McClatchy).

James Dao reports for the Times that U.S. Marines leaving Helmand Province, which the corps made a key part of their campaign in Afghanistan, feel that their efforts there were worthwhile, despite suffering some of the heaviest casualties of any branch of the U.S. military (NYT). Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, says that civilian casualties are down 20 percent in Helmand, roads have been paved, and markets experience more security, allowing the economy to grow in the province's largest cities.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai slammed Pakistan on Monday for comments made by Pakistani cleric Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi of the All Pakistan Ulema Council endorsing suicide attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan (AP). Karzai pointed out that Ashrafi had been appointed by the Pakistani government, implying that the state agrees with his views on suicide bombings, and saying "practical steps are not being taken to fight terrorism" in Pakistan.

Music therapy

Pakistani rock band Topi Drama released a new song two weeks ago that is already making its way around the Internet to much fanfare (ET). The song deals not with love, money, or personal struggles, but with the plight of Pakistan's Shi'a Muslim minority, and both society's and the government's failure to protect them from militant extremists.

-- Jennifer Rowland



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