Pakistani Shiites hold funeral for victims of triple bombing that killed 35, wounded scores

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Thousands of Shiite Muslims, thumping their chests and crying, mourned Thursday at funeral prayers for victims of a triple bombing that heaped more tragedy on Pakistan, which is already struggling to cope with devastating floods.

The blasts that targeted a Shiite ceremony late Wednesday in this eastern city were the first major attacks since flood waters tore through the country over the past month, destroying or damaging more than one million homes and prompting a major international relief effort that continues to struggle with the scale of the destruction.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter.

A member of the group, who did not give his name but has previously spoken on behalf of the militants, said it was in revenge for the alleged killings by Shiites of members of a Sunni extremist ally of the group, Sipah-e-Sahaba.

The Obama administration on Wednesday added the Pakistani Taliban to its international terrorism blacklist and charged its leader with planning a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last year that killed seven CIA employees. The group has also been blamed for the failed car bombing in New York's Times Square.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit welcomed the U.S. action against the group, saying it was also banned in Pakistan.

At least 35 people were killed and 250 wounded in the attacks on a street procession marking the death anniversary of caliph Ali, one of Shiite Islam's most respected holy men. Two of the blasts were apparently suicide bombs.

Afterward, crowds torched a police station and vehicles. Authorities deployed paramilitary forces to restore order.

The bodies of eight victims — included a young child — were prayed over in a public park not far from the scene of the bombings. Security was tight, with police frisking mourners. Their families then took them to be buried.

"While the whole nation is distressed with the sufferings of flood affected, these terrorists are involved in promoting their own agenda," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a statement condemning the blasts.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik vowed to crack down on Pakistani Taliban, which has been under pressure from army offensives in its strongholds in the northwest close to the Afghan border over the last two years.

"We will continue to take actions till the demise of Taliban," he told reporters.

Sunni militants have launched dozens of attacks against Shiites and other Islamic sects and religions in Pakistan in recent years. The extremists believe it is permissible — even honorable — to kill members of other faiths.

Allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban, the militants are also seeking to destabilize Pakistan's U.S.-backed government through such attacks.

Senior Shiite leader Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi demanded more protection, but said his community would never stop organizing yearly processions for Ali.

"We can sacrifice our life, but can not allow mourning processions to end," he said.

Pakistan was slow to recognize what army officers now say is the existential threat Islamist militants pose to the state. But over the last two years and amid heavy U.S. pressure, the army have been fighting back. They have had some success, but the militants have proved resilient

__

Associated Press reporter Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.