20 killed in Pakistan blast targeting Hazaras

Islamabad: At least 20 people were killed, almost half of them belonging to the Shia Hazara minority, and 48 injured when a bomb hidden in a sack of potatoes exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan’s Quetta city on Friday.

According to Deputy Inspector General Abdul Razzaq Cheema, nine Hazara, one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier and two children were among the dead, Dawn online reported.

“The attack took place in a (green grocer’s) shop (in Hazarganji area). An improvised explosive device (IED) was planted in a gunny sack filled with potatoes. We are yet to ascertain if it was timed or remote-controlled. An investigation is on,” Cheema said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

While Cheema said the blast targeted the Hazara ethnic community, Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove called it a suicide bombing and that it didn’t target “a specific community”.

“Our guess is that no specific community was targeted. Marri Baloch and FC personnel were among those killed as well. The numbers of the Hazara community were just greater,” Langove said. He described the blast as a suicide attack.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Deeply saddened and have strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Hazarganji market area of Quetta targeting our innocent people. I have asked for an immediate inquiry and increased security for the people.

“Prayers go to the families of the victims and for early recovery of the injured.”

President Arif Alvi and several politicians also condemned the bombing.

Initial police findings indicate the bomb had been planted before Hazara shoppers reached the market on Friday.

Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled in Quetta since fleeing Afghanistan to escape violence in their homeland during the past four decades. The city’s Hazarganji area has been witness to similar attacks in the past.

Hazara shopkeepers are known to stock vegetables and fruits from the Hazarganji bazaar to sell at their own shops. They are provided security escorts to and from Hazarganji since they are constantly under threat of attack.

Cheema told Dawn that “people from the Hazara community come here daily in a convoy from Hazara town to buy vegetables. They are escorted by police and FC, and then they return there. It was the same today”.

Following the blast, Qadir Nayil, a Hazara community leader, asked the Pakistan government to ensure better protection for them.

“Once again our people were the target… We demand more security from the government and all those involved in today’s act of terrorism should be found and punished,” he said.