The spectre of sectarian violence reared its head again on Saturday when at least 11 people were killed and many more injured in separate bomb and suicide attacks in the southwest and northwest of the country.
A suicide bomber struck at a crowded Eid bazaar in Hazara Town, a Shia neighbourhood of Quetta, Saturday night, killing at least five people and injuring 20 others, some of them critically.
“The bomber detonated the explosives strapped to his body in the midst of shoppers in the bustling Eid bazaar situated in the Aliabad area of Hazara Town,” Azher Hussain, SHO Hazara Town police station, told The Express Tribune. “More than 100 shoppers were present in the bazaar when the bomber struck.”
“At least five people were killed,” he said quoting initial reports. All the victims were from the ethnic Hazara community, he added. The casualties were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where a state of emergency was declared.
A medic at the BMC said that they have received four bodies and several injured people. At least 20 injured – including a woman and five children – were received at the CMH, according to doctors there.
Police and paramilitary troops threw a security cordon around the area as wailing ambulances ferried the injured to the hospitals and investigators searched for vital forensic evidence. “Women and children are among the casualties,” a rescuer said, fearing that the death toll could go up.
“The police have found the head of the bomber,” SSP Sadar Mahmood Ali Notezai told reporters. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast and SSP Notezai said that the police have started investigations.
The deadly bombing sparked a protest by the Hazara community. Incensed community members took to the streets in different neighbourhoods, pelted vehicles with stones and chanted slogans against the government and law-enforcement agencies.
President of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Abdul Khaliq Hazara condemned the attack, calling it a failure of the provincial government and its law-enforcement apparatus. “Attacks are taking place in Quetta despite the heavy presence of law enforcers in the city,” he said.
The suicide bombing happened hours after a remote-controlled bomb targeting a police mobile van injured eight people on Spini Road of Quetta.
“Terrorists detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) when the mobile van of DSP Pashtoonabad Naeem Khan drove past,” SSP (Operations) Aetzaz Ahmed told The Express Tribune. The device was planted in a box which was placed by the side of Spini Road near Bakra Mandi, he added.
The blast damaged a pick-up car and shattered the windows of shops and buildings in the vicinity. The injured were ferried to the BMC and Provincial Sandeman Hospital.
Earlier in the day, a powerful bomb tore through a bus terminal in a Shia-dominated area of Kohat district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. At least six people and 17 wounded in the attack believed to be motivated by sectarian hatred. The district police officer (DPO), Saleem Marwat, said all the fatalities belonged to the Shia community. This further gave credence to reports that it was a sectarian attack.
“Around 11am suspected militants remotely triggered an IED planted in a wall of Usterzai bus terminal,” Marwat told The Express Tribune. “A passengers van with some people on board bore the brunt of the blast,” he added. “Three passengers died on the spot and another three succumbed to their injuries on way to hospital.”
Another senior police officer, Muhammad Iqbal, who was among the first to reach the bombsite, said that residents pulled out the casualties from the wreckage of the van. “Two vehicles parked nearby were also destroyed,” he added. “Most of the injured were passers-by.”
Iqbal identified the dead as Shabbir Ali, Mehtab Ali, Taimour Ali, Syed Shah Zainul Hassan, Iman and Qamar Abbas. The injured were driven to the nearby Liaquat Memorial Hospital.
According to Iqbal, it wasn’t the first time the bus terminal was attacked. A few months back an IED was detonated here, he added. “Usterzai is a Shia-dominated area and this is why it has frequently been targeted.” The in-charge of the bomb disposal squad, Akbar Khan, said the device weighed around three kilos.
Eyewitness Hassan Jan said he was walking past Peshawar Chowk near the Usterzai bus terminal when the explosion occurred. “I was tossed in the air by the impact of the blast. When I came to my senses, I found myself lying on the floor of a vehicle with my clothes torn and stained with blood,” he added.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast and the City police registered a case against ‘unknown militants’.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and K-P Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak strongly condemned the blasts in Quetta and Kohat. They expressed grief over the loss of lives and prayed for the recovery of the injured.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2014.
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