Officials said the death toll was likely to climb.—AFP (File Photo)

PARACHINAR: A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in a Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Monday, killing 12 Shia Muslims in the latest instance of sectarian violence to rock this country, officials said.

In addition to the 12 killed in the explosion in the town of Parachinar in the Kurram region, 45 people were wounded, said government official Sahibzada Anis. Another government official, Naseer Khan, said all of the dead were Shia Muslims.

Kurram is the only region along the Afghan border that is majority Shia, and has seen bloody outbreaks of sectarian violence in recent years.

The emergence over the last 10 years in Pakistan of groups such as al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban has added to the frequency and viciousness of attacks against Shias.

In February, a suicide attacker on a motorcycle blew himself up in Parachinar, killing 23 Shia Muslims and wounding 50 people.

Many of the recent sectarian killings in Pakistan have been blamed on the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Malik Ishaq released

A court released the founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi on bail Monday, about a week and a half after he was arrested because of a speech he made that authorities said incited sectarian hatred, said police officer Ejaz Shafi.

Bail was set at 500,000 rupees, about $5,280, Shafi said.

Police arrested Malik Ishaq in 1997, and he was accused in more than 200 criminal cases involving the killing of 70 Shias.

But the prosecution could never prove the charges, in part because of witness and judge intimidation, and he went free in 2011.

Also Monday, a radical prayer leader in Islamabad and 19 others were acquitted in the 2007 killing of a security officer, the cleric's lawyer said.

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