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Bombing attacks in Pakistan leave 86 dead

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Shia Muslims hit by a twin bombing that killed 86 people refused to bury their dead yesterday, demanding the Pakistani government do more to protect them from increasing violence against the minority sect.

The attack on a billiards hall Thursday night in the southwestern city of Quetta marked a bloody start to the new year after a human rights group said 2012 was the deadliest ever for Shias in the majority Sunni Muslim country.

Many of the attacks last year were carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant group allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban that also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the billiards hall. The attack was one of three that took place across Pakistan on Thursday, killing 120 people in the country's deadliest day in five years.

The billiards hall was located in a predominantly Shia area, and most of the dead and wounded were from the sect. Members of the beleaguered Shia community laid about 50 of their dead on the street yesterday, saying they would not bury them until the government improves security. Islamic custom dictates the dead should be buried as soon as possible.

Young Shia men also set tires on fire and blocked a nearby road in protest. "We want safety for all our sects, and all security measures should be taken for our safety," said Fida Hussain, a relative of one of the victims.

The Shias ended their protest and agreed to bury the dead late yesterday after hours of negotiation with police and government officials, who promised to provide greater protection and arrest the killers, said senior police officer Hamid Shakeel.

Rights groups have also accused the government of not doing enough to protect Shias in the country. Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused the Pakistani military and other security agencies of "callousness and indifference" when it came to the killing of Shias.

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