WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday denounced the attack on an Islamic shrine in Lahore and vowed to support Pakistan against militants who wish to "destabilize" the country.
"We condemn this brutal crime and reaffirm our commitment to support the Pakistani people in their efforts to defend their democracy from the violent extremists who seek to destroy it," Clinton said in a statement.
Forty-two people were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up among crowds of worshippers at the shrine to Sufi saint Data Ganj Bakhsh in the eastern Pakistani city.
"The extremists have shown that they respect neither human dignity nor the fundamental religious values of Pakistani society," Clinton said.
"Violating the sanctity of this revered shrine is a particularly sinister attempt to destabilize Pakistan and to intimidate its people. The attackers will not succeed, as the Pakistani public refuses to be cowed by such violence," she said.
The United States last year approved a five-year, 7.5 billion-dollar package aimed at reducing the appeal of extremists in the Islamic world's only declared nuclear power by building infrastructure, schools and democratic institutions.
But the United States remains wildly unpopular with the Pakistani public.
The attack on the Sufi shrine was the latest violence against religious sites in Lahore, often considered Pakistan's cultural capital. Assailants recently gunned down nearly 100 members of the Ahmadi community.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a non-partisan body that advises the US government, said that the Pakistani government "must do more to protect the lives and freedoms of all religious groups."
In a statement, the commission's chair Leonard Leo called on Pakistan to repeal blasphemy laws, which rights groups say are flagrantly abused against religious minorities.
The commission "reiterates its call for the United States to vigorously press Islamabad to repeal Pakistan's blasphemy law, which creates a climate of impunity for extremist violence," Leo said.
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