At least 11 people, including a woman, were killed and three others injured in a sectarian attack targeting the Shia community in Quetta on Saturday morning, when gunmen opened fire on a passenger vehicle.
“The vehicle was passing by a bus stand when gunmen riding in another car opened fire, killing at least 11 people and wounding three others,” Quetta’s police chief Hamid Shakeel said.
Another police official said it appeared to be a sectarian attack as all those killed were Shias from the Hazara community.
Outlawed militant organisation Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the attack. Ali Sher Haideri, who claimed to be the spokesperson for the banned outfit, called different newspaper offices and TV channels and claimed his organisation had carried out the attack and said that attacks on the Shia community would continue.
Balochistan Inspector-General (IG) Police Rao Mohammad Amin Hashim told reporters that around 250 suspects had been taken into custody in connection with the killings since Friday evening.
“Police do not possess magical power to trace these culprits and obviously we will need cooperation from the people to identify these criminals,” he said, adding that their hideouts were being raided.
As many as 18 people have so far fallen victim to sectarian targeted killings during the past 16 hours in the provincial capital.
Seven people had been gunned down at a bus terminal on the Saryab Road a day ago and the same organisation had claimed responsibility for the attack.
A senior police official, quoting an eyewitness said that a passenger pick-up, heading towards Hazara Town from Marriabad, came under attack near Killi Mubarak on Spiny Road, near the DIG (operations) office.
“Armed men were waiting in a car on the road. They opened indiscriminate fire when the vehicle, which was carrying people belonging to the Hazara community, reached the bus stop.
Eleven people, including a woman and a rickshaw driver, died on the spot, while three others were seriously injured,” an eyewitness said.
After the firing, the van’s driver lost control of the vehicle, resulting in the vehicle plunging into a ditch long the road. The assailants managed to escape.
“I saw a man, armed with a Kalashnikov, step out from the car and open fire,” another eyewitness said.
Police later shifted bodies to the Bolan Medical College (BMC) Hospital.
After the incident, hundreds of people of the Hazara community reached the hospital and resorted to violence, smashing window panes and ransacking the premises and harassing the hospital staff.
Enraged protesters torched seven vehicles and a roadside hotel on the Brewery Road and in Faisal Town.
“Some of the protesters were armed and they continued their violent protest for several hours without any hinderance,” a journalist said.
However, several hours later police reached the area in large numbers and brought the situation under control.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that ‘enemies of the state’ were trying to destabilise the country and that men who opened fire on the van were ‘hired’ killers.
Speaking to the media at Karachi airport, Malik condemned the Quetta incident and said some ‘elements’ were trying to ‘weaken’ the country.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza and President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the incident and condoled with the relatives of the victims’ families. Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani and Governor Nawab Zulafiqar Ali Magsi directed the police to take necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31th, 2011.
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