QUETTA, July 4: At least 44 people were killed and 65 injured in an attack on an imambargah in the heart of the city during Friday prayers. It is generally thought to be a suicide attack which is seen as lending a frightening new dimension to such incidents in the country.
The identity or the number of attackers could not be confirmed immediately, although one of them was said to have been killed in an exchange of gunfire.
The massacre was followed by angry demonstrations and rioting that led to the imposition of a curfew in the city. The Frontier Corps was called out, and there were incidents of firing to quell enraged protesters.
On June 8, 11 police recruits from the Hazara tribe were killed in an attack on their bus, precipitating tension the city.
The incident took place in the imambargah situated on MeCongy Road when people were offering the Juma prayers.
According to reports, three attackers entered the imambargah from the MeCongy Road gate. Two entered the main hall where the Juma congregation was in progress.
The two assailants carrying automatic weapons opened indiscriminate fire on the people. They continued firing for over 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, a powerful bomb exploded outside the main hall, killing the suicide bomber and many other people offering prayers.
After carrying out the attack, the two assailants came out of the main hall and tried to flee. A local journalist, Riaz, tried to overpower them. However, he was shot dead.
In the meanwhile, private guards of the imambargah opened fire on the attackers. One of the attackers was killed on the spot while the other received injuries. He later died in the hospital.
“I was offering prayers in the front row when the firing began. I saw two men firing on the faithful,” Mehmood Hussain told Dawn at the CMH Quetta.
“The firing lasted for over ten minutes,” Mr Hussain said, and added that he later heard an explosion outside the main hall.
Another eyewitness Khan Ali said: “I was praying outside the main hall where a bomb was exploded and I saw many disfigured bodies.”
The son-in-law of Syed Ahmed Raza, Controller Dawn Balochistan, Special Assistant at Dawn’s marketing section in Quetta Walayat Hussain and his brother-in-law Tanzeem Hussain were also killed in the incident.
Angry people took to the streets afterwards and set on fire around two dozen vehicles. The also attacked and damaged many private and government building, including the casualty ward of the Civil Hospital where the victims were taken.
The injured were later shifted to the Combined Military Hospital.
Soon after the incident thousands of people belonging to the Hazara tribe rushed to the Civil Hospital. They blocked the main Jinnah Road and started pelting vehicles with stones and also targeted police.
The protesters moved to different areas of the city and set ablaze private and government vehicles, including two fire tenders. They smashed window-panes of shops, banks and other government and private buildings. Two banks were also set on fire. Some of the protesters also fired shots. They also tried to attack police vehicles in different areas.
A section of the mob also attacked a madressah in Marriabad area and set it on fire. However, army personnel and other law enforcement agencies rushed to the scene and saved the lives of around 360 students. Over two dozen students fell unconscious due to suffocation.
The army has taken position in different areas and the situation is under control now, the Quetta Nazim said.
The army and the Frontier Corps were patrolling the city and people were asked to stay indoors.
The deceased were identified as Walayat Hussain, Asim Ali, Tanzeem Haider, Syed Mohammad Naqi, Ramzan Ali, Mohammad Mehdi, Munir Ahmed, Ijaz Hussain, Mohammad Hussain, Syed Baqir Raza, Mohammad Ayub, Mohammad Hasan, Sadat Ali, Haji Abdul Wahid, Syed Raza, Rajab Ali, Tasuwwar Abbas, Mustafa Zafar Haider, Mohammad Latif, Haider Ali, Mehdi, Haji Ghulam Mohammad, Mohammad Kashif, Mohammad Younus, Zawar, Mohammad Naqi, Muzaffar Ali and Nazar Hussain.
The identity of the rest of the deceased could not be ascertained.
The injured were identified as Mubarak Ali, Hazarat Khan, Naib Ali, Hasan Reza, Ali Reza, Syed Kazim, Safdar Ali, Saifullah, Fateh, Mohammad Mohsin, Syed Ahmed Shah, Liaquat, Basit Ali, Kamal Ali, Mohammad Waseem, Mohammad Zahid, Sajid, Mohammad Ali, Ghulam Abbas, Samiullah, Mohsin Ali, Asharf Ali, Hasan Raza, Mohammad Younus, Shaukat Ali, Syed Zakir Hussain, Riaz Hussain, Mohammad Yasin, Abdul Shakoor, Nooruddin, Mahmood, Khair Hussain, Mohammad Younus, Ali Abid, Master Ali Reza, Mohammad Baqir, Syed Reza Hussain, Moheem Hussain, Ahmed Ali, Nazir Abbas, Murtaza, Saifullah, Afzal, Sher and Tanvir.