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Dozens of Pakistani bombing victims to be buried after families end public protest

By Shaan Khan and Nasir Habib, CNN
January 14, 2013 -- Updated 0944 GMT (1744 HKT)
Pakistani Shiite Muslims demonstrate and sit between the coffins of bomb blast victims in Quetta on January 12, 2013.
Pakistani Shiite Muslims demonstrate and sit between the coffins of bomb blast victims in Quetta on January 12, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protest organizer: The government has agreed to most of our demands
  • The prime minister agrees to toss out local government but rules out military intervention
  • Two suicide bombings in a Shiite neighborhood in Quetta killed 85 on Thursday
  • The Shiite community had previously asked for more protection, but to no avail

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- After days sitting in freezing temperatures next to their slain loved ones, the families of dozens of bombing victims will end their protest and bury the bodies, a protest organizer said.

Relatives had camped out at major intersections of Quetta since late last week to protest the deaths of 97 residents killed by a series of bombings on Thursday.

The deadliest blasts were two suicide bombings in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood known as Alamdar Road. The double bombing, described by police as one of the worst attacks on the Shiite minority, killed 85 people. A banned Sunni militant group claimed responsibility.

A third explosion in killed 12 people in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, on Thursday. Police blamed Baloch insurgents for that blast.

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Although Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan geographically, analysts and some locals have criticized the federal government for neglecting it, leading to instability.

The Shiite community has repeatedly asked for more protection, but to no avail.

On Sunday, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met with Shiites in Quetta, Pakistani media reported.

Ashraf addressed protestors who participated in the protest sit-in. He said he would meet one of the two major demands of the group -- tossing out the provincial government and putting a governor in charge.

However, Ashraf said he wouldn't implement military rule in the city but would leave it up to the governor to ask for more help -- if needed -- from paramilitary forces to try to quell the violence.

The visit appeared to satisfy protesters.

"We end our sit-in protest as the government has assured us ... action against perpetrators of the blasts," said Qayoum Changezi, an organizer of the demonstration.

Changezi said the government had agreed to meet almost all of their demands and said burials would now proceed.

Not burying dead bodies immediately after death is taboo in Islam. The soul of the body is not considered to be at rest until the body is in the ground.

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan province, an area regularly plagued by violence. In addition to sectarian attacks on Shiites, unrest in the province is believed to be fomented by several insurgent groups, including the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army and the Pakistani Taliban.

Read more: What's working in Pakistan

Last week's string of attacks was the deadliest so far against the minority Shiite community, which has been targeted repeatedly in the past by groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni militant group.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Alamdar Road attacks.

More on Pakistan: India and Pakistan trade accusations over Kashmir violence

Shiites, a minority sect in mainly Sunni Muslim Pakistan, face persecution from extremists. Last month, more than 20 Shiite pilgrims were killed when a car bomb detonated near the buses they were traveling in.

Mir Zubair Mehmood, a Quetta police official, said the Alamdar attacks were motivated by Sunni and Shiite sectarian differences.

Read more: Malala, others on front lines in fight for women

CNN's Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

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