- (Photo: Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)
Taliban-linked militants have killed 103 people in Pakistan on Thursday in three major bombings, marking one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in recent months.
Officials said that the heaviest attack occurred in the city of Quetta, where 69 people were killed while another 69 were injured at a blast at a billiard hall, The Associated Press reported.
Another bomb blast at a Sunni Islam mosque in the Northern city of Mingora killed 22 people while injuring 70, and yet another blast in a commercial area in Quetta targeting paramilitary soldiers killed 12 people and wounded 40 others.
"Frontier Corps [paramilitary] personnel were the target because the bomb was planted underneath their vehicle," senior police investigator Hamid Shakeel shared with AFP news.
Sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who are linked to the Taliban, have claimed responsibility for the attack, with group spokesman Bakar Saddiq revealing that the first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber, while a remotely controlled car bomb was responsible for the second one.
Mohammed Murtaza, a police officer in Pakistan, noted that most of the dead at the billiard hall were from the minority Shiite Muslims sect, who make up between 5 to 20 percent of total Muslim population in the country. They have often been targeted by radical Sunnis, who claim that Shiite's hold a heretical view that is not aligned with true Islam.
Several news sources point out also that the Pakistani government has been engaged in a bloody struggle with Taliban militants for a number of years now. The U.S.-led war on the Taliban since 2001 had driven them at least temporarily from Afghanistan, but the militants have retained a strong foothold in the Pakistani region.
Al-Qaida supreme leader Osama bin Laden was shot dead by a 2011 U.S. commando raid in Pakistan, an incident that has sparked a wave of violence in the South Asian country by angry Taliban and al-Qaida sympathizers seeking revenge for their slain leader.
The country has lost thousands of lives to terrorism in the past decade, and attacks have continued despite a campaign to eradicate the Taliban which was launched by the government in 2009.
Last week, 15-year-old girl Malala Yousafzai, who made headlines around the world for standing up to the Taliban by attending school in Pakistan and campaigning for women's rights, was discharged from a hospital in Britain. She had been recovering from a serious wound she suffered on Oct. 9 when Islamic militants shot her in the head and neck when she was riding a bus to school.