Death toll from string of bombings in Pakistan reaches 114

QUETTA, Pakistan Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:56am GMT

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QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - The death toll from a series of bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday, one of the bloodiest days in the country's history, has reached 114, police said Friday.

The majority of deaths were caused by a sectarian double bombing in the western provincial of Quetta.

The bombings underscored the myriad threats Pakistani security forces face from homegrown Sunni extremist groups, the Taliban insurgency in the northwest and the less well-known Baloch insurgency in the southwest.

Police officer Mir Zubair Mehmood said 82 people were killed and 121 injured in Quetta when a suicide bomber targeted a snooker club and a car bomb blew up nearby 10 minutes later. Nine police and 20 rescue workers were among those killed in the second blast.

"It was like doomsday. Bodies were lying everywhere," said Mehmood.

The banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jangvi claimed responsibility for the attack in a predominantly Shi'ite neighbourhood whose residents are ethnic Hazaras.

Earlier in the day, a separate bomb killed 11 people in Quetta's crowded main market.

The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for that blast. The group is one of several fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves.

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan, a province that constitutes just under half of Pakistan's territory and is home to about 8 million of the country's population of 180 million.

In a separate attack in Mingora, the largest city in Swat valley, at least 21 people were killed when an explosion targeted a public gathering of residents who had come to listen to a religious leader.

No one claimed responsibility for that bombing. Swat has been under army rule since a military offensive expelled the Taliban in 2009.

The Taliban insurgency in the northwest has launched a string of attacks in recent weeks, including a suicide attack on Peshawar airport, the kidnap and execution of 21 paramilitary forces and a suicide attack killing a leading politician.

Pakistan's security forces and its overburdened justice system are struggling to cope. Human rights groups say the government must investigate whether some of the groups have links to elements within Pakistan's security services.

(Reporting By Katharine Houreld; Editing by Michael Perry)

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