Islamabad, April 12: At least 20 people were killed and 48 others injured in a blast that targeted members of the ethnic Hazara community at a market in Pakistan’s Quetta city on Friday, police said.
Deputy Inspector General Abdul Razzaq Cheema told Dawn News that eight of the victims belonged to the community that has been targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance.
“The attack took place in a (greengrocer’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.
The victims also included a Frontier Corps soldier.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.
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.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the killings and sought a report into the attack while Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal promised that those involved in the attack would be strictly dealt with.