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Pakistan’s Sunni Radicals Targeting Shiites

Sunni radicalism is on the rise in Pakistan, and the violence perpetrated against the hated Shiite minority has been particularly brutal. Reuters has a sobering piece outlining the extent of the recent violence, which identifies the Sunni terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as one of the worst culprits:

“Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is the detonator of terrorism in Pakistan,” said Karachi Police Superintendent Raja Umer Khattab, who has interrogated more than 100 members. “The Taliban needs Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Al Qaeda needs Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They are involved in most terrorism cases.”

With a few hundred hard-core cadres, the highly secretive Lashkar-e-Jhangvi aims to trigger sectarian violence that would pave the way for a Sunni theocracy in U.S.-allied Pakistan, say Pakistan police and intelligence officials. Its immediate goal, they say, is to stoke the intense Sunni-Shi’ite violence that has pushed countries like Iraq close to civil war.

More than 300 Shi’ites have been killed in Pakistan so far this year in sectarian conflict, according to human rights groups. The campaign is gathering pace in rural as well as urban areas such as Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city. The Shi’ites are a big target, accounting for up to 20 percent of this nation of 180 million.

Like many Islamic terrorist groups in South Asia, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was originally supported by the Pakistani ISI, but was quickly outlawed after 9/11. Now it’s making a comeback as fears of Iran spread across the Sunni world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which appears to be funding it. And unlike the Taliban, its base is in the urban centers of Pakistan.

Thus far the violence has mostly been one-way: Sunnis attacking Shiites. But that may change as the blood keeps flowing. For now, the Shiites are showing restraint, but that may change in the future:

In Quetta and Karachi, Shi’ite leaders say they are urging young men to exercise restraint and buy weapons only for self-defense.

“We are controlling our youth and stopping them from reacting,” said Syed Sadiq Raza Taqvi, a Karachi cleric, seated beside a calendar with images of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

But with each killing, the temptation to take revenge grows.

Read the whole thing.

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