QUETTA: A massive bomb targeting the shia Hazara tore through a busy Quetta market, killing as many as 63 people on Saturday including women and children and wounding 180 others, police and officials said.
The bomb, planted in a tanker on a tractor trolley ripped, through a packed bazaar in Hazara town, on Kirani road located on the outskirts of Quetta at around 6:00 pm.
“At least 63 people have been killed and 180 injured. Most of them were from the shia community,” Quetta city police chief Zubair Mehmood told reporters.
The police chief said the tanker full of explosives was placed near a pillar of a two-story building, which collapsed due to the force of the blast. Sources say between 800 and a 1000 kilogramme of explosives were used.
“We fear that several people have been trapped inside. Rescue work is ongoing but I see very little chance of their survival,” Mehmood said.
Senior police official Wazir Khan Nasir said the bombing “was a sectarian attack, the shia community was the target”.
A spokesperson for the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said the dead and injured included women and children, and confirmed reports of people trapped under rubble at the site of the collapsed building.
“We fear more casualties. We have announced an emergency in hospitals,” he told AFP. Most of the injured were rushed to the Civil-Military Hospital (CMH). Some were rushed to the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC.)
Officials and witnesses said an angry mob initially surrounded the area following the bombing and were not allowing police, rescue workers and reporters to reach the site.
“They were angry and started a protest, some of them pelted police with stones,” Durrani said, adding that authorities and medical personnel were eventually able to gain access.
Sayed Qamar Haider Zaidi, a spokesperson for shia groups in the area, condemned the Pakistani government for not providing protection to the community, and announced three days of mourning and protest over the attack.
Majlis Wahatul Muslemeen has announced to observed strike tomorrow as a protest against the Quetta’s blast.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned Balochistan Governor and directed him to utilise all resources for the protection of Hazara community.
The Balochistan governor, under whose charge the province had been placed last month, announced Rs1 million as compensation to heirs of each of the victims. He said that those who were critically wounded would be shifted to Karachi for better treatment.