Reward offered for leads on mosque attackers

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Pakistan offered a $35,000 reward Tuesday for information leading to the arrest of those who organized a mosque attack that killed at least 50 Shiite Muslims.

The offer came in a statement that carried photographs of three men who carried out last Friday's attack in this southwestern city, tossing grenades and gunning down worshippers. About 2,000 people were in the mosque at the time.

Two of the assailants died in a shootout with guards. A third man blew himself up inside the mosque.

Police have detained 17 men for questioning in connection with the massacre. Quetta police chief Rehmatullah Niazi and two other police officers have been dismissed for failing to prevent the assault.

Shiite Muslim leaders say the assailants were not Pakistanis.

Pakistan is investigating the possibility that Taliban and al-Qaida fugitives were be behind the attack. The victims were ethnic Hazaras, who live both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. There were frequent clashes between the Taliban and Hazaras when the Taliban were in power.

The Taliban are mostly Sunni Muslim, while Hazaras are largely Shiite Muslims.

Pakistan says it also has other suspects, including rival India.

On Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Mahmood Khan hinted India may have played a part in the attack in an attempt to destabilize President Pervez Musharraf's government. India immediately denied any involvement.

Shiite Muslim leaders in Pakistan are demanding quick action from the government and have threatened street demonstrations if more arrests are not made and the culprits not identified.

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