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Sectarian murders at Pakistan Shia procession

Commemoration beset by Shiite, Sunni violence

Sectarian murders at Pakistan Shia procession

Shiites assist an injured Sunni Muslim during the clashes (picture: AFP Photo/Aamir Qureishi) reporter, Islamabad

November 18, 2013

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Pakistan on Sunday ordered a judicial inquiry into sectarian riots that took place on November 15, as clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims left nine people dead and scores more wounded in Rawalpindi, officials said.

Violence broke out during a religious procession when a group of Shiites passed a Sunni mosque and accused the mosque’s leader of insulting them as they passed.

Qari Shakir, the mosque’s prayer leader, allegedly insulted the Shiites in his sermon, prompting participants of the procession to enter the mosque, drag out students and beat them to death. More fatalities were reported after enraged protesters snatched guns from policemen and opened fire at the seminary.

Video footage also showed participants of the procession beating policemen. Dozens of shops also were torched.  

Acting on a request from the city administration, the local government immediately imposed a curfew and blocked mobile phone services for nearly 48 hours.

The Shiites were observing Ashura, which commemorates the seventh-century killing of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson. The commemoration is typically marred by violence.

Sajid Zafar Dall, a Rawalpindi official, said that nine people were killed and at least 50 people injured in the violence.

Dall said that although the curfew would be lifted early Monday morning, the army would remain on alert to avoid any potential sectarian violence. “No political or religious gathering will be allowed anywhere in the province,” he said.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told reporters that an inquiry has been ordered to determine who was responsible for starting the clash.

“It is very sad to see that Ashura which was largely successful from Karachi to Peshawar was overshadowed by this one incident,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met with religious leaders and promised compensation for the families of those killed and shops torched, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

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