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“This evil force is operating with the patronage of certain elements in the province,” said Qayum Changezi, the chairman of a local Hazara organization.

Saturday’s attack was the worst since a series of bombings on Jan. 10 killed 86 people in Quetta, almost all Hazara Shiites. Residents were so furious that they refused to bury their dead for days, instead camping out on the streets with the bodies in coffins in protest and demanding the government address the problem.

After days of protests, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf flew to the city to meet with protesters and sacked the chief minister and his cabinet. But Saturday’s attack showed the still potent power of the militant groups behind such incidents.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, where the Shiite minority has been attacked several times in recent months. Baluch nationalist groups are fighting an insurgency there to try to gain a greater share of income from the province’s gas and mineral resources. Islamic militants are also active in the province.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is one of the more vicious militant groups operating in the country. They took their name after a firebrand Sunni cleric who gave virulently anti-Shiite sermons.

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies helped nurture Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Iran, which is mostly Shiite. Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001, but the group continues to operate fairly freely.

Last year was particularly deadly for Shiites in Pakistan. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 were killed in targeted attacks across the country. The human rights group said over 125 were killed in Baluchistan province, most of whom belonged to the Hazara community.

Rights groups have accused the government of not doing enough to protect Shiites in the country.