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Quetta blast death toll reaches 84

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People gather after a bomb targeting Shias exploded in busy market in Quetta, on February 16, 2013. — Photo by AFP

QUETTA: A suicide-bomb targeting Shia Hazaras in a busy market in Pakistan's restive southwest killed 84 people including women and children and wounded 200 others, officials said Sunday.

A shutter down strike was being observed in the provincial capital of Balochistan against Saturdays bombing incident.

The Government of Balochistan announced that a day of mourning would be observed on Sunday against the bombing incident targeting the Hazara community.

The city's Alamdar road was sealed a strict security arrangements were made through out the city, whereas  army personnel were providing assistance with the security arrangements.

The powerful bomb in a water tanker ripped through a packed bazaar near Hazara town, an area dominated by Shias on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of oil and gas rich Balochistan province, at around 6:00 pm (local time) on Saturday.

Quetta city police chief Zubair Mehmood said the water tanker, which officials said was packed with some 800 kilograms  of explosives, was placed near a pillar of a two-storey building, which collapsed in the blast.

“We fear that several people have been trapped inside. Rescue work is ongoing but I see very little chance of their survival,” Mehmood said.

A spokesman for the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to media reports.

Provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said the dead and injured included women and children, and confirmed reports of people trapped under rubble at the site of the collapsed building.

“We fear more casualties. We have announced an emergency in hospitals,” he told AFP.

Officials and witnesses said an angry mob initially surrounded the area following the bombing and were not allowing police, rescue workers and reporters to reach the site.

“They were angry and started a protest, some of them pelted police with stones,” Durrani said, adding that authorities and medical personnel were eventually able to gain access.

Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulifqar Ali Magsi announced a day of mourning for today over the incident.

President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain also condemned the incident.

The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and the MQM also announced for a day of mourning to be observed on Sunday.

Sayed Qamar Haider Zaidi, Tehreek Nafaz-i-Fiqh-i-Jafriya (TNFJ) central information secretary, condemned the Pakistani government for not providing protection to the community and announced three days of mourning and protest over the attack.

Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has increasingly become a flashpoint for sectarian violence between Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims and Shias, who account for around a fifth of the country's 180 million people.

At least 93 people were killed and 121 wounded on January 10 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a crowded snooker club in an area of Quetta city dominated by the Shia community.

It was Pakistan's worst sectarian bombing, also claimed by (LeJ), and came after what Human Rights Watch (HRW) said was the deadliest year on record for the country's Shias, with more than 400 people killed in 2012, mostly in drive-by shootings.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf late last month sacked the provincial government in Balochistan after meeting Shia Muslim protesters demanding protection.

The province is also rife with militants and hit by a regional insurgency which began in 2004, with fighters demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's natural resources.

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