Archive for October 7th, 2010

Sufi Shrine in Pakistan Is Hit by a Lethal Double Bombing

By Huma Imtiaz for The New York Times

KARACHI, Pakistan — A nearly simultaneous double explosion that may have been the work of suicide bombers struck a crowded Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s main port city of Karachi on Thursday evening, killing at least 7 people and wounding 65, officials and rescue workers said. Pakistani women mourn the death of a child killed in an attack on the shrine Sufi Saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi.

It was the first attack on the shrine, the grave of the Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi, and it appeared to be an effort by hard-line militants in Pakistan to strike at the heart of Sufism, the moderate, more flexible blend of Islam practiced by most Pakistanis.

The attack came three months after militants struck one of the country’s most important Sufi shrines in the city of Lahore, which left at least 42 people dead.

The first blast at the Karachi shrine occurred at the main gate. Police officials said that within 25 seconds, the second blast hit the steps leading up to the saint’s grave.

Rescuers said three children were among the dead.

Dr. Seemi Jamali, deputy director of the emergency ward at Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, where the wounded were taken, said “many of them have severe injuries, trauma to the head and neck.”

Television channels showed body parts strewn at the site and chaotic scenes of unnerved, sobbing survivors.

The home minister of Sindh Province, Zulfiqar Mirza, told reporters that the severed heads of two suspected suicide bombers had been recovered from the site. Police officials were more circumspect, saying it was premature to conclude that the attack was by suicide bombers.

Local TV channels reported later that Tehreek-e-Taliban, or Movement of Taliban, an umbrella group of militants, had claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is known to have trained cohorts of suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The attackers apparently chose Thursday night because it is one of the most crowded times of the week at the shrine, when hundreds throng to seek blessings from the saint and to receive free food.

The government closed all shrines in the city after the bombings.

The West is Being ‘Outmanoeuvred’ by Violent Islamist Extremists: Tony Blair

By John Swaine for The Telegraph

In a speech in New York, the former prime minister said that warnings over the past week of new terrorist plots against Europe should remind people that they remain under threat.

Mr Blair said a “narrative” that Muslims were under attack from the US and its allies, who act out of support for Israel, had been allowed to take hold, aided by “websites and blogs”.

A fresh confrontation is needed because it will be impossible to defeat extremism “without defeating the narrative that nurtures it”, he said.

“The practitioners of extremism are small in number. The adherents of the narrative stretch far broader into parts of mainstream thinking,” Mr Blair told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“It is a narrative that now has vast numbers of assembled websites, blogs and organizations.” Mr Blair said it was “absurd” that some people were surprised at how powerful Islamist extremist groups were, given the amount of funding they received and indoctrination they spread.

“Measure, over the years, the paucity of our counter-attack in the name of peaceful coexistence,” he said. “We have been outspent, outmaneuvered and out-strategized.”

Mr Blair said a tendency to “sympathize” with extremism was not only dangerous but also disempowering for moderate Muslims, because it made people resent them as much as extremists.

He said he was “intrigued” by the fact that western leaders, including Barack Obama, the US President, felt the need to condemn Terry Jones, a pastor who threatened to burn a Koran.

“Suppose an Imam, with thirty followers, in Karachi was to burn a bible,” he said. “I can barely imagine a murmur of protest. It wouldn’t be necessary for the President of Pakistan to condemn it because no one here would remotely consider he supported it.”

The former prime minister also called on the west to make it “crystal clear” to Iran that their acquisition of a nuclear bomb would be unacceptable to the entire “civilized world”.

“Go and read the speech of Iran’s President to the United Nations just days ago here in New York, and tell me that is someone you want with a nuclear bomb,” he told those who disagree.

He stressed that the achievement of a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine would remove “much of the poison which the extremists use”.

And he defended his decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, saying: “whatever you think of the original action, we enabled the people to choose their Government”.

Mr. Blair last night appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on American television. He said that satirists like Letterman had been wrong to paint George W. Bush as unintelligent. “You don’t get to this position by being a fool,” he said.

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