QUETTA, Feb 16: Terror and tragedy came back to haunt Shia Hazaras after a lapse of one month when a massive bomb devastated a residential area in Quetta on Saturday, killing at least 67 people. A large number of women and children were among the dead.

This was the first attack on the community after the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan on Jan 13 — three days after a suicide bomber took almost 100 lives and set off a chain of events that eventually toppled the government of Chief Minister Aslam Raisani.

The bombing left security agencies and the administration with no place to hide as this time they did not have the fig leaf of an “inept chief minister” to cover their failing.

“The blast shook the entire city,” Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood said at a press conference.

A spokesman for the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Abubakar Siddique, told reporters by phone: “Our suicide bomber carried out the blast and the Shia communi-ty in Hazara Town were the target.”

DIG (Investigation) Fayyaz Saumbal said the explosives were fitted to a water tank that was loaded on a tractor-trolley. He said the quantity of explosives was more than that used in the Alamdar Road explosion of Jan 10.

About 30 people died on the spot and 37 others in hospitals.

Bomb disposal squad sources said the device was packed with 800-1,000kg of explosives. They put it as a suicide attack. The explosion left a crater six feet deep and 18 feet long.

A large number of people were shopping in the busy market and schoolchildren were passing through the area after attending the second shift when the explosion shook their neighbourhood.

Buildings and shops caught fire and several people, including schoolchildren and women, were trapped by the leaping flames.

“At least 12 people were burnt to death,” the hospital sources said, adding that the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

“I saw several charred bodies in Bolan Medical College Hospital,” a witness, Ahmed Khalil, said, adding that women and children were among the victims.

“Half burnt school bags and books were scattered all over the place,” Ali Hassan, a resident of the area, told Dawn.

At least four markets and over 20 shops were razed to the ground by the explosion.

Many vehicles, motorcycles and pushcarts were also destroyed.

OUTRAGE: Police and Frontier Corps personnel rushed to the place, but the people of the area opened fire and pelted law enforcement personnel with stones.

The security and rescue workers managed to enter the area after about half an hour and moved the injured and bodies to the city’s three main hospitals.

The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen announced that it would observe a strike in Quetta on Sunday and the Anjuman-i-Tajiran supported the call. The Tahaffuz-i-Azadari Council called for a seven-day mourning.

Talking to reporters, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, leader of the National Party, said two countries were involved in sectarian terrorism in Balochistan. “Two countries are behind the killing of 1,500 to 2,000 people in sectarian attacks over the past five years,” he said.

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