| Two men read a poster identifying the suicide bombers, in Quetta on Wednesday. (AFP)
Islamabad, July 16 (AFP): Pakistani investigators have identified two of the three suicide bombers who were killed while carrying out the deadly attack on a Shia mosque early this month killing 48 people, police said.
“We have identified two of the three terrorists as Noor Ahmed and Mohammad Khan, both from Mastoong district of Baluchistan province,” a senior investigator said.
Mastoong is 28 km south of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province.
Ahmed had been affiliated to the al-Badr militant organisation, which has been fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir, said the investigator speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, the group with which Khan was associated is yet to be established, he said.
“We are probing whether the two men had any link with the outlawed, anti-Shia, Sunni terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ),” the investigator said.
The group was banned in August 2001 by President Pervez Musharraf as part of his crackdown on extremist groups. The organisation is blamed for having killed hundreds of members of the minority Shia community, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of Sunni-dominated Pakistan’s 145 million population.
The three attackers, all with bombs strapped to their bodies, stormed into a major Shia mosque belonging to the ethnic Hazara community in Quetta on July 4, killing 48 people and wounding more than 50.
Khan was known to be a staunch anti-Shia in police records.
Some 50 people detained in the days following the attack are still under interrogation in Quetta, a top Quetta police official said.
He said the identification of the two terrorists was not the result of interrogation of the detainees but it came through an informer.
"We are holding these people to ascertain their activities and links because of their anti-Shiite background," the official said.
Al-Badr was formed in 1998 as a breakaway faction of Kashmir main guerrilla group, Hizbul Mujahiden. Al-Badr had links in the past with Afghan renegade warlord and former Afghanistan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, according to a US State Department report.
Washington put the group on its terror watch list in 2002 along with Hizbul Mujahiden.
Sunnis and Shiites have largely co-existed peacefully in Pakistan but militant groups emerged in both communities in the 1980s under the military regime of late President Zia ul Haq, leading to a cycle of sectarian violence in the 1990s.
Banned Sunni militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan (SSP) consider Shiites as infidel because of their religious beliefs alleging that they are disrespectful toward revered figures from the early days of Islam
LJ sprang up as an offshoot of SSP to launch attacks against the Shiite community, leading to formation of a Shiite counterpart by the name of Sipah-e-Muhammed of Pakistan (SMP) or soldiers of prophet Muhammed.
SMP was banned along with LJ while SSP and four other outfits were banned in January 2002 by Musharraf.
Former SSP chief, Maulana Azam Tariq, is a member of parliament and an ally of Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali's government. Tariq won the October 2002 elections from behind bars and was released just before the parliament was sworn in.