Quetta: This photo shows family members of the blast victims comforting each other outside a mortuary and (right) security officials inspect the site of the bombing at a fruit market in the city.—Agencies
Quetta: This photo shows family members of the blast victims comforting each other outside a mortuary and (right) security officials inspect the site of the bombing at a fruit market in the city.—Agencies

QUETTA: At least 20 people, including security personnel and children, were killed and 60 others injured in a suicide attack at the Hazarganji fruit and vegetable market of Quetta and a motorcycle bomb blast in the border town of Chaman on Friday.

At least eight people from the Hazara community and two children were among 19 victims of the suicide attack that was later claimed by a faction of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The group said it collaborated with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), though there was no confirmation from the latter.

In Chaman, the target of the motorbike blast was a vehicle of security forces carrying personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), officials said. They said it left one dead and 12 others, including two FC personnel, wounded.

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About the Quetta attack, official sources said the suicide bomber blew himself up when Hazara community members, after purchasing vegetable and fruit, were loading their vehicles. The community members had earlier arrived at the market under the security cover of FC.

“As result of the suicide attack, 19 people lost their lives and 48 were injured,” Home Minister Ziaullah Langove told a press conference while confirming that it was a suicide blast.

Earlier, Deputy Inspector General of Police in Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema had put the death toll at 18 with 30 injured. He said it emerged during initial investigations that an explosive device, planted in a potato sack, had been detonated by remote control.

However, police investigators later confirmed that it was a suicide attack, explaining that the head and other parts of the suicide bomber were found in the area.

Soon after the blast security forces, including FC and police, rushed to the explosion site and cordoned off the entrance. They started rescue operation and shifted the bodies and the injured to Civil Hospital, where a state of emergency was declared.

“We received 19 bodies and 48 injured at civil hospital,” said Saleem Abro, medical superintendent of the hospital.

Hospital sources said the death toll could rise as condition of at least 10 injured people was serious.

Later, heavy contingents of FC and police took the Hazara community members in their protection and shifted them to Hazara Town. Meanwhile, a bomb disposal squad rushed to the explosion site and collected evidences.

Home Minister Zia Langove said for the past many years, the people of Hazara community running vegetable and fruit business came to Hazar Ganji every morning in FC and police protection in a convoy from Hazara Town and Marriabad areas of the city.

The minister, however, believed that the Hazara community was not the specific target, because people from other communities, too, lost their lives in the attack.

DIG Cheema told reporters that heavy contingent had been deployed at all important places after receiving a security alert a few days ago about the threat of such attack. However, he said, they were not expecting the attack in the Hazar Ganji area.

Hours after the explosion in Quetta, another blast took place in Chaman, a town at Pak-Afghan border, leaving nearly a dozen people injured.

In the Chaman blast, 13 people were injured who were rushed to district hospital where one of them died.

Police said the bomb was planted in a motorcycle parked outside a shop at the Mall Road roundabout. They said it was detonated when a vehicle of security personnel was passing through the area.

One man was killed and 12 others were injured in the explosion.

“The target of the blast was the vehicle of security forces, which was carrying FC personnel,” officials said, adding that the vehicle remained safe.

However, an official later confirmed that two FC personnel were among the injured.

TTP faction claims responsibility

Meanwhile, the Qari Hussain faction of the banned TTP claimed responsibility of the Quetta attack.

The group said it collaborated with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) for the joint action. “We targeted Hazara community in the joint attack,” stated a message sent to the media in Quetta.

Expressing his grave concern and deep sorrow with the families of victims, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani strongly condemned the attack and ordered the law enforcement agencies to submit a detailed report to him.

He also ordered the relevant authorities to provide best possible medical facilities to the injured and announced that the provincial government would bear the medical expenses.

Mr Alyani said such kind of timid attacks could never undermine their commitment against extremism and terrorism. The culprits were enemies of humanity, he remarked.

Funeral, burial

On Friday evening, hundreds of people offered funeral prayers for the Hazara community victims who were later laid to rest in the Hazara Town graveyard. Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, Health Minister Mir Nasibullah Marri and security officials were also present.

Burial of other victims was also held in other areas of Quetta, while the bodies of some victims who belonged to other cities were shifted to their native towns.

Hazara community protest killings

Later, men, women and children from the Hazara community staged a protest rally on the main road and later converged at the Quetta Press Club where they chanted slogans against the government. They condemned the ongoing ‘genocide’ of Hazara community, demanded proper implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) without any discrimination and arrest of elements involved in this inhuman act. They said it was responsibility of the state to provide security to its people.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019