Nov 12 2013, 3:22am CST | by IANS
New York, Nov 12 — The Pakistani government should urgently act to prevent deadly sectarian attacks on Shia Muslims that escalate during the Muslim holy month of Moharram, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
In recent years, Sunni extremist groups affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed dozens of Shias during Moharram, particularly on Shia processions marking Ashura, the 10th day of Moharram, which in 2013 falls on Nov 15.
"Pakistan's besieged Shia citizens should be able to participate in Ashura processions without fear of predictable attack while the government just looks on," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch.
"The Pakistani authorities need to put all necessary security measures in place to protect the Shia population. Arresting extremist group members responsible for past attacks would be an important first step."
Sunni extremist groups have attacked Ashura processions in Pakistan for the last several years, Human Rights Watch said.
In the days before Ashura in 2012, some 30 people were killed and at least 100 were wounded in five attacks. This deadly campaign culminated in a suicide bombing in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan that targeted the Ashura procession, killing at least five people and wounding more than 90 others.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for all of these attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban and its affiliates such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have conducted unprecedented attacks in 2013 on the country's Muslim and non-Muslim religious minorities, claiming responsibility for most major bombings and vowing further violence.
More than 800 Shias have been killed in targeted attacks in Pakistan since 2012, including about 400 so far this year.
In the first days of November alone, at least 15 Shia have been killed in several targeted attacks across Pakistan.
Sunni militant groups such as the banned Lashkar-e Jhangvi have historically had links to the Pakistani military and its intelligence agencies.
While the military denies any ongoing links to such groups, Lashkar-e Jhangvi continues to operate with impunity even in areas where state authority is well established such as Punjab province and Karachi.
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