QUETTA, March 3: A judicial injury has been ordered into the tragic incidents of firing and suicide attack on an Ashura procession that claimed 45 lives here on Tuesday.
Forty-five people were killed, more than 160 injured, and over 150 shops and commercial establishments as well as three houses were torched in terrorist attacks and subsequent acts of arson and rioting.
Till late night on Wednesday, the burial was not performed as the community leaders demanded removal of the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps for their alleged involvement in firing.
Chief Minister Jam Mir Mohammad Yousuf asked the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court to appoint a senior judge for conducting the probe, it was officially announced on Wednesday.
Quetta was placed under strict curfew and army troops virtually took over the city soon after the incident. They were patrolling roads and sensitive localities. The administration relaxed curfew from 4pm to 6pm in western parts of the city on Wednesday. There was no relaxation in affected localities.
The tragic incident took place on Liaquat Bazaar when the main Ashura procession moved towards Junction Chowk at around 1:10pm after a short stay at Meezan Chowk.
Witnesses said terrorists first hurled at least two hand- grenades and then opened indiscriminate fire at mourners from a vantage-point on the first floor of a roadside building called Bano Market.
"At least seven people were killed on the spot when grenades exploded and many others injured," Irfan Ali, an eyewitness, told Dawn. According to Irfan, a terrorist then came down and started firing on the procession.
Some people from the procession rushed to Bano Market and tried to capture the terrorists, but they blew themselves up. "Many people died when the terrorists detonated bombs hidden under their clothes," a security official, who was present in the area, said.
Yaqoob Tawasli, a leader of the Imam Jumma Organization, claimed that two terrorists were killed by the mob while another with injuries was handed over to the police. Mr Tawasli said a fourth terrorist, who had left the building and opened fire on the procession, was killed in the blast.
Police officials, however, said that two terrorists were killed in the blast and one was arrested. "They were three. Two were killed and one suspect is in our custody," they said, adding the suspect was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital. The killed terrorists were beyond recognition.
Witnesses said there was a stampede after the attacks in which many people were injured. "Security men and many other people started heavy firing after the terrorists' attack," said a witness, Rehman Khan, adding many people were injured in crossfire. He said some people tried to snatch arms from the security men.
Besides, a heavy exchange of fire was reported on the Mecongy Road between the police and an unruly mob who had tried to attack Imambargah Nasirul Aza. Constable Nisar Shah was killed and many other people were injured.
The armed men then spread to nearby streets and set fire to a newspaper's office on Jamiat Roy Road. Some of the newsprint lying outside the building was burnt. The arsonists also burnt three houses on Arif Road. The residents were saved by the area people.
After the terrorist attacks the police and other security officials 'disappeared' from the scene. The angry mob then attacked closed shops, markets, shopping malls, commercial establishments, hotels, etc.
They ransacked and torched over 150 shops and other buildings, including a cinema-house, a UBL branch and an MCB branch, on Prince Road, Liaquat Bazaar, Masjid Road, Meezan Chowk, Abdul Sattar Road and Mecongy Road.
The fire-brigade was not allowed by the mob to enter the affected localities as a result the burning private and public property was completely gutted. "A security guard of the MCB died of suffocation," hospital sources said, adding his body was recovered from the bank branch on Wednesday.
The situation was brought under control when army troops took control of the city following imposition of an indefinite curfew by the home secretary. Hospital sources confirmed 45 deaths. Five of those killed were police constables. Most of the 160 wounded, including a woman, received bullet injuries on upper parts of their bodies.
"Parts of the bodies of two terrorists were brought to the hospital," a doctor at the civil hospital said. All government offices, banks and other institutions remained closed on Wednesday. District Nazim Mohammad Rahim Kakar announced that all schools, scheduled to reopen on March 3 after two-and-a-half months winter vacations, would remain close till March 5.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at Imambargah Nachari, where 32 bodies were placed, Allama Syed Jan Ali Kazmi announced that the victims would be buried until the government removed the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps who were allegedly involved in firing.
INVESTIGATION: Preliminary investigations showed suicide bombers had come from some other province and they were not locals, the chief minister said.
"It was a suicide attack in which two attackers blew themselves up, Jam Yousuf said. One terrorist had been arrested and was being interrogated, he added. The chief minister condemned the incident. The injured were taken to the Sandeman civil hospital, the CMH and two private hospitals.
Sources said that majority of the victims succumbed to injuries in hospitals. The condition of some 15 injured was stated to be serious. The police and other agencies were investigating as to how terrorists reached a building on the procession route despite the tight security arrangements the administration had made to ensure safety on Ashura. The police have recovered weapons, from a room in the Bano Market, believed to have been used by the terrorists.