His target was the congregation of 25,000 people at the Eidgah in Marriabad – a Shia-populated locality in Quetta – in order to ensure maximum casualties. However, being unable to reach his intended victims, the suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car on Wednesday near the place of worship, killing at least 12 people, including two women and two children, and wounding 32 others.
In what appeared to be an incident of sectarian violence, the bomber struck a parking lot near a mosque on Shaheed Major Mohammad Ali Road right after Eidul Fitr prayers.
Claiming responsibility for the brutal attack, a spokesperson of the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), who introduced himself as Ali Sher Haideri, contacted different media offices from an undisclosed location and confirmed that his organisation was responsible for the incident. “LeJ will continue to target people from the Shia community,” he said.
The blast was so powerful that more than ten cars caught fire and the roofs of two houses collapsed. Ten people died on the spot, while 34 people received injuries, two of whom succumbed to their wounds on Thursday, taking the original death toll to 12.
Firefighters and rescue workers rushed to the spot soon after the incident and shifted the bodies and the injured to Provincial Sandeman Hospital and Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where a state of emergency had been declared.
All those who lost their lives belonged to the Shia community, police officials said.
“Over 60 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack and the police managed to recover the head and hands of the suicide bomber,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG-Investigations) Nazir Kurd told The Express Tribune. Samples will be sent for a DNA test to determine the bomber’s identity.
“We had deputed community guards near the mosque. They intercepted the suicide bomber near the parking lot where he detonated the explosives,” said Ghulam Hussain, a spokesperson of the Wahadatul Muslimeen. “There would have been hundreds of deaths had the bomber managed to reach the congregation.”
The Eidgah can accommodate 35,000 people, and at the time of the attack, there were around 25,000 people who had gathered there for Eid prayers.
Believing that attacks on their community have become widespread, Shia people now deploy members of their own sect to provide security for gatherings and processions.
Funeral prayers for the 12 people killed were offered at the Hazara graveyard where they were laid to rest. An FIR has been registered at the Quaidabad Police Station under the anti-terrorism and explosive acts on behalf of the state. No arrests have been made so far.
Condemning the attack, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has directed the constitution of two committees to investigate the incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.