Angry Pakistani Shiites refuse to bury dead in bombings

QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) - Shiite families refusing to bury their dead after twin bombings in Pakistan's troubled south-western city of Quetta vowed to continue their sit-in protest on Saturday until the army takes over security.

Hundreds of protesters have gathered on the main road near the snooker hall that was the scene of Thursday's twin suicide attacks, alongside more than 60 coffins carrying the victims' shrouded bodies, senior administration official Hashim Ghilzai said.

The refusal to bury the bodies is an extreme position in Islamic society where the dead are normally buried the same or next day, but families say they will not leave until authorities agree to put the security and administration of the city under army control.

"The government machinery has failed, there is no protection for people in Quetta," local Shiite party official Hashim Mausawi said.

"We will not end our protest until we get an assurance that the Pakistan army will take over security and administrative control in Quetta."

Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombings, which took place in an area dominated by Shiite Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority and killed 92 people, with 121 wounded.

It was the worst ever sectarian attack on Shiites, who account for around 20 per cent of Pakistan's 180 million population.

Some of the victims, including security officials and three journalists, were buried on Friday.

The government in Baluchistan province, where security forces are also fighting a separatist insurgency, announced three days of morning after the bombings.

It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since suicide bombers killed 98 people outside a police training centre in the north-west in 2011 - an assault claimed by the Pakistani Taleban.

Earlier Thursday, a bomb detonated under a security force vehicle in a crowded part of Quetta, killing 11 people and wounding dozens.

In total, 126 people were killed in bombings in what was one of Pakistan's deadliest days for years, raising concerns about rising violence in the nuclear-armed country ahead of general elections.

Another bomb at a religious gathering in the north-western Swat valley killed 22 people and wounded more than 80, the deadliest incident in the district since the army in 2009 fought off a two-year Taleban insurgency.

The United States condemned the "senseless and inhumane attacks", with State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland saying on Friday: "We remain concerned about extremist violence of any kind in Pakistan and remain committed to working with the government of Pakistan to combat terror."

The attacks, coupled with violence in the north-west, revived warnings from analysts that Islamist militancy could threaten national elections, expected some time in May.

Polls would mark the first time an elected civilian government in Pakistan, for decades ruled by the military, completes a term in office and is replaced by another democratically elected government.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded that the government take immediate steps to clamp down on "murdering mayhem" ahead of the elections.

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