Massive Blast Rips Through Pak City; 65 Killed

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QUETTA: At least 65 people were killed and more than 200 wounded Saturday when a large explosion shook Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, police officials said. 

The death toll may further rise as two markets comprising over 60 shops were levelled to ground following the blast, burying dozens of people under the debris, local Urdu TV channel Dunya said. Several of the injured were also in a critical condition. 

The explosion occurred near a market at the busy Kirani road area of the city, located in Hazara Town, dominated by Shia Muslim community.

“At least 65 people have been killed by the blast. The dead include women and children,” Mir Zubair Mehmood, police chief of Quetta city, told reporters. “The explosion completely destroyed a two-storey building.”

Earlier Wazir Khan Nasir, a senior police officer, had said that over 200 people had been injured in the attack.

“It was a sectarian attack, the Shia community was the target,” said Wazir Khan Nasir.

A spokesman for the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for Saturday’s bloodshed, news agency Reuters reported.

Rescue work was under way on the blast site with teams striving hard to pull out the people stranded in the rubbles. 

Local media quoted unidentified police sources as saying that an estimated over 100 kg of explosive materials were used in the blast. 

Following the blast, angry Shia protestors cordoned off the area and did not allow police, rescue teams and media to reach the blast site. 

The protestors said that Hazara community was targeted dozens of times in Quetta over the last two years in which hundreds of innocent Shia Muslims lost their lives, but the government failed to provide adequate security to them. 

All the injured people, including over 30 women and children, have been shifted to a military hospital of Quetta for security concerns. 

According to hospital sources, the death toll may further rise as several people among the injured were in critical condition. 

Governor Balochistan Zulfikar Magsi has announced Sunday to be a province-wide day of mourning. The Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen has also called a strike in Quetta on Sunday in protest of Saturday’s blast.

The provincial capital has become a flashpoint for sectarian linked violence, where at least 93 people were killed in a series of bombing last month. A majority of the people killed in the Alamdar Road blasts on Jan 10 belonged to the Shia community.

It was Pakistan’s worst sectarian attack, also claimed by the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Later that month, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sacked the provincial government after relatives and Shia demonstrators refused to bury the blast victims for four days in protest.

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