QUETTA: At least 63 people were killed and almost 200 wounded Saturday when a large explosion shook Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, police officials said.
The explosion occurred near a market at the busy Kirani road area of the city, located close to Hazara Town, where a large population of the ethnic Hazaras community resides.
“At least 63 people have been killed by the blast. The dead include women and children,” Mir Zubair Mehmood, police chief of Quetta city, told reporters. “The explosion completely destroyed a two-storey building.”
Earlier Wazir Khan Nasir, a senior police officer, had said that almost 200 people had been injured in the attack.
“It was a sectarian attack, the Shia community was the target,” said Wazir Khan Nasir.
A spokesman for the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for Saturday's bloodshed, news agency Reuters reported.
“We fear more casualties. We have announced an emergency in hospitals,” said provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani.
Durrani said the bomb was planted near the pillar of a building in the market.
Officials and witnesses said an angry mob surrounded the area after the blast and were not allowing policemen, rescue workers and reporters to reach the site.
“They were angry and started a protest, some of them pelted police with stones,” said Durrani.
“Some of them were armed and were firing gunshots in the air, now they have allowed police and rescue workers to reach on spot,” he added.
Governor Balochistan Zulfikar Magsi has announced Sunday to be a province-wide day of mourning. The Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen and the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) have also called a strike in Quetta on Sunday in protest of Saturday’s blast.
The provincial capital has become a flashpoint for sectarian linked violence, where at least 93 people were killed in a series of bombing last month. A majority of the people killed in the Alamdar Road blasts on Jan 10 belonged to the Hazara Shia community.
It was Pakistan’s worst sectarian attack, claimed by the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Later that month, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sacked the provincial government after relatives and Shia demonstrators refused to bury the blast victims for four days in protest.
The protestors demanded greater protection from the government and military.
Syed Ali Shah in Quetta also contributed to reporting.