ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomb blast targeting a Shiite procession in the southern city of Quetta on Friday killed 58 people and injured more than 100 others, police said. The explosion came two days after bomb attacks killed 35 people during a Shiite march in another Pakistani city.
Shiites were marching near Meezan Square, a busy shopping area in the heart of Quetta, to express solidarity with the Palestinian movement when the blast occurred, said Malik Iqbal, inspector general for the Balochistan provincial police. Afterward, onlookers fled the area as some of the marchers, who had appeared at the rally armed with rifles to protect the marchers, angrily fired into the air, according to eyewitnesses.
The attack follows a trio of suicide bomb blasts in Lahore on Wednesday that targeted Shiite marchers honoring the anniversary of the death of Imam Ali, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for those attacks.
Sunni Muslim militant groups have for years preyed on Pakistan's Shiites, who make up between 10 and 30 percent of the population. Several militant groups have developed a strong alliance with the Pakistani Taliban. Those groups have operated freely in Pakistan, particularly Punjab province, despite being banned by the government.
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Police were criticized after the Lahore bombings this week for failing to provide adequate security. As many as 15,000 Shiite Muslims were taking part in the march when the attacks occurred.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik urged Pakistan's Shiite community to avoid carrying out large rallies or marches in vulnerable locations such as city streets and marketplaces.
Iqbal said police had received information that the march in Quetta might be targeted, and met with organizers of the march two days ago to warn them to restrict the procession within an area secured by police. Organizers ignored the warning, he said.