Suicide bomber attacks volleyball game in Pakistan

A suicide bomber attacked a site where a volleyball game was being played in north-west Pakistan on Friday and casualties were feared, a police official said.

“It was a suicide attack. The bomber was on foot and he blew himself up during the game,” Habibullah Khan, a police official, told Reuters by telephone. The blast took place in the town of Lakki Marwat, near Taliban strongholds.

The attack came on a day of protests against militant violence in Pakistan, a US ally.

Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi nearly shut down on Friday as religious and political leaders called for a strike to denounce bloodshed after a suicide bomber killed 43 people at a religious procession this week.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on a huge crowd of Shi’ite Muslims and threatened more bloodshed.

The prospect of increased violence comes at a trying time for President Asif Ali Zardari, who faces political heat because corruption charges against some of his aides may be revived.

The pro-American leader has vowed to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda but they remain defiant, killing hundreds of people in bombings since October despite facing major government offensives.

In a sign of growing anxiety over security, the United Nations will withdraw some of its staff from Pakistan because of safety concerns, a UN spokesperson said on Thursday.

On a visit to Karachi on Friday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said militant groups were harming Pakistan, a country Washington needs to help stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan, where Western troops are battling a Taliban insurgency.

“They are hired assassins. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam,” he told reporters. – Reuters

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