At least 65 killed in bombing at Pakistan market
Nearly 200 are wounded in blast; minority Shiite sect targeted, police say
quetta, pakistan — A bomb hidden in a water tank ripped through a crowded vegetable market in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in this southwestern Pakistani city Saturday, killing at least 65 people and wounding nearly 200, officials said.
Police said many of those wounded in the explosion remain in critical condition. The blast, which police said targeted the country’s minority Shiite Muslim sect, left many victims buried under rubble, but authorities did not know how many.
It was the deadliest incident since bombings targeting Shiites in the same city killed 86 people last month, leading to days of protests that eventually toppled the local government.
Shiites have come under increasing attack by militant groups who view them as heretics and non-Muslims in this Sunni Muslim-dominated country. Many of the Shiites in Quetta, including those in the neighborhood attacked Saturday, are Hazaras, an ethnic group that migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan more than a century ago.
Quetta’s police chief, Zubair Mahmood, told reporters that the bomb had been concealed in a water tank after being towed into the market by a tractor. He said the blast destroyed shops in the neighborhood and caused a two-story building to collapse.
“We fear some victims may be found buried there,” he said.
Mahmood said police did not yet know who was behind the bombing, but a local television station reported that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group that has targeted Shiites in the past, had called to claim responsibility.
A senior police officer, Wazir Khan Nasir, said the bomb, set off in a residential suburb, was detonated by remote control.
Another officer, Samiullah Khan, said the bomb was set off while dozens of women and children were buying produce for their evening meal. Residents rushed the victims to three area hospitals, often in private vehicles because there were not enough ambulances to transport the victims.
Members of the minority Shiite sect took to the city’s streets in angry protest, blocking roads with burning tires and throwing stones at passing vehicles.
Saturday’s attack was the worst since multiple bombings on Jan. 10 killed 86 people in Quetta, almost all Hazara Shiites. Residents were so furious that they refused to bury their dead for days, instead camping out on the streets with the bodies in coffins in protest and demanding the government address the problem.
After days of protests, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf flew to the city to meet with protesters and sacked the chief minister and his cabinet. But Saturday’s attack showed the still-potent power of the militant groups behind such incidents.
Last year was particularly deadly for Shiites in Pakistan. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 were killed in targeted attacks across the country. The human rights group said that more than 125 were killed in Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, and that most of them had belonged to the Hazara community.
At a hospital in Quetta, medics and volunteers cover the bodies of victims of the bomb blast.