QUETTA/ PESHAWAR: Sunday was one of the deadliest days in militant violence which has spiked sharply following the historic democratic transition of power in the country. At least 46 people – including women and children – were killed and dozens injured in suicide and bomb attacks in the north and south of the country.
A suicide bomber detonated the explosives strapped to his body amid a crowd of people near an Imambargah in Hazara Town of Quetta shortly after Maghrib prayers.
At least 29 people, among them nine women and three children, were killed and 65 injured, nearly half of them critically. The capital city police officer (CCPO), Mir Zubair Ahmed, confirmed the casualties.
He also confirmed that the attack was targeted at the Shia Hazara community which has lost hundreds of its members in an escalating wave of gun and bomb attacks by sectarian militants. “The bomber broke the security cordon using a bicycle,” he told journalists.
A banned sectarian extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has carried out most attacks on the Hazara community, claimed credit for Sunday’s bombing in a phone call to media offices in Quetta.
Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said the bomber appeared to be an Uzbek, between 20 and 25 years of age.
“The bomber wanted to strike inside Imambargah Abu Talib in the Aliabad neighbourhood of Hazara Town where worshippers had
gathered for Magrib prayers. He, however, blew himself up when he was stopped near the main gate of the Imambargah,” Durrani told newsmen. “The casualty figure would have been much higher, had the bomber managed to get in.”
The blast destroyed several shops, homes and offices around the Imambargah which is located in the main business centre of the Hazara community. Rescuers fear that some people could be trapped under the rubble. Security forces used heavy machinery to dig their way to the trapped people.
The casualties were driven to the Bolan Medical Complex, Civil Hospital and Combined Military Hospital where a state of emergency was declared.
Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch cut short his visit to Islamabad to personally deal with the crisis in Quetta. He denounced the dastardly attack and sympathized with the Hazara community.
The Hazara Democratic Party and Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslemeen announced a shutter down strike on Monday and three-day mourning.
Earlier in the day, a powerful roadside bomb targeting a convoy of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) killed at least 17 people and injured 47 others in Peshawar.
The five-vehicle convoy came under attack while passing through Kohat Road in the city’s Badabher neighbourhood. While the convoy narrowly escaped the bomb, the busy marketplace bore the brunt, according to police.
At least four children and a woman were among the dead, and two children and a woman were among those hurt, said Jamil Shah, spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital.
Javed Khan, a local administration official, told reporters that one policeman was also among the fatalities.
“Two FC personnel were wounded in the attack … they were later moved to the combined military hospital,” said a security official. “The rest of the men are safe and were unhurt in the attack,” he added.
Shops and cars were damaged in the blast. Pieces of human flesh, broken glass, lost shoes and vegetables from nearby carts were flung across the scene, and the seats of damaged cars were splattered with blood.
A police official told The Express Tribune that the bomb was planted in a car parked near the marketplace and was remotely detonated. He added that police and security personnel opened indiscriminate fire immediately after the blast, leading to further casualties and delaying the rescue operation.
Eyewitness Muhammad Arshad, who was having his vehicle serviced right across the blast site, corroborated the police official’s account.
“A thick cloud of dust covered the area for at least 15 minutes after a loud explosion … As soon as it settled, paramilitary forces opened fire … many people were hit, others saved their lives by running from the site,” he recalled.
According to the head of the bomb disposal squad and Special Branch AIG Shafqat Malik, the bomb weighed around 45kg. In addition to that, the car was also packed with mortar shells, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2013.
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