At least seven people, among them a woman who died of a coronary failure, were shot by activists of a banned sectarian outfit who also fired at least three rockets on residences in a locality near Hazara Town in Quetta on Friday.
Eight others were injured in the attack. All victims belonged to the Shia Hazara community, observers and police sources said.
“Six people were gunned down (in the firing after the attack). Eight others were seriously injured,” confirmed Hamid Shakil, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Operations. Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) claimed responsibility for the deadly attack and vowed to continue similar assaults against the Shia community.
Calling a local news agency from an unspecified location, the LJ spokesman, who identified himself as Ali Sher Haideri, threatened to avenge the killing of al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, by targeting ministers and security forces.
The Shia community and Hazara Democratic Party condemned the attack and announced a three-day mourning period. They also called for a shutter-down strike on Saturday (today).
According to eyewitness accounts, at least 10 men armed with automatic assault rifles and two rocket launchers on three vehicles, two pick-up trucks and a car, took up positions on the Bypass Road, above the Hazara Town, near a public park and a graveyard.
“I was awakened by a huge explosion. The armed men fired at least three rockets and then opened indiscriminate fire on the people offering prayers in the graveyard and passers-by,” said Mehdi Asghar, a member of the Mukhtar force, Balochistan, an organisation for the security of the Shia community.
“The firing lasted 17 minutes, during which, we frantically tried to contact police and other officials but no one responded,” he added.
Three rockets were lobbed, one of them hit a house, second an imambargah while the third one landed in the graveyard, killing and injuring several people. The deceased and injured were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex and Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
“We received five bodies. While doctors were collecting information about the deceased and the injured, a mob overpowered them and tore the manual register,” a source at the hospital said.
The police and FC personnel reached the crime scene after the incident and cordoned
off the area. “The assailants entered from the Brewery Road and fled towards the Shalkot area after carrying out the attack,” local police officer Amir Mohammad said.
A large number of angry protesters reached the Bypass Road and held a protest demonstration. They set two motorcycles on fire and burnt tyres, as traffic remained disrupted.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2011.