|Anti-Shia terrorist group behind Quetta carnage||
A bomb attack targeting Shia Muslims in the main bazaar of the city in southwestern Pakistan killed at least 84 people, including women and children, and injured nearly 200 others, officials said on Sunday morning, the Pakistani television network Dawn News reported.
According to the police, most of the victims were Hazara Shias. A senior security official said the figure could rise as 20 people were critically wounded. Burnt school bags and books of schoolchildren were scattered everywhere, witnesses said.
A spokesman for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombing. The group was founded in 1996 by Riaz Basra after he broke away from Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan over differences with his superiors.
“The explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device fitted to a motorcycle,” said Wazir Khan Nasir, the deputy inspector general of police in Quetta, which is the capital of Balochistan province. “This is a continuation of terrorism against Shias.”
“I saw many bodies of women and children,” said an eyewitness at a local hospital. “At least a dozen people were burned to death by the blast.”
“The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shia community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces,” Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, the governor of Baluchistan province, said while touring a hospital.
Provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said the dead and injured included women and children, and confirmed reports of people trapped under rubble at the site of the collapsed building.
“We fear more casualties. We have announced an emergency in hospitals,” he told AFP.
Officials and witnesses said an angry mob initially surrounded the area following the bombing and were not allowing police, rescue workers and reporters to reach the site.
“They were angry and started a protest, some of them pelted police with stones,” Durrani said, adding that authorities and medical personnel were eventually able to gain access.
According to Reuters, leaders of the ethnic Shia Hazara community called on the government to take decisive action, and Pakistanis warned that sectarian violence was spiraling out of control.
“The government is responsible for terrorist attacks and killings in the Hazara community because its security forces have not conducted operations against extremist groups,” said Aziz Hazara, the vice president of the Hazara Democratic Party.
“We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits involved in the killing of our people and after that we will launch strong protests.”
On Sunday, people searched for survivors under blocks of cement torn off buildings by the blast. A large blood stain could be seen on a wall near the site.
Many shops and bazaars were closed. Relatives of the wounded responded for an appeal for blood made by hospitals.
“The government knows exactly who is doing what and who is behind all this,” said Mohammad Imran, a local trader. “If the government wants (to prevent it), no one can take even a kitchen knife into any market.”
Al Jazeera correspondent Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, said the entire area of the attack in Hazara Town has been cordoned off by security officials.
Syed Qamar Haider Zaidi, a spokesman for local Shia Muslim groups, condemned the Pakistani government for not providing protection to the community and announced three days of mourning and protest over the attack.
In the capital Islamabad, several hundreds of people, both Shia and Sunni Muslims staged a protest demanding the government to stamp out extremism.
“There is a law of the jungle, but in this country I think there is not even a law of the jungle,” said Syed Abbas Naqvi, a Shia Muslim.
“A person who is extremely helpless, vulnerable and powerless is always made the target of barbarity whereas all brutal people like the terrorists, Taliban and others who carry out these merciless acts… roam free all over the country.”
Protests were also held in other cities, including the commercial capital Karachi, and in Quetta.
On January 10, a twin bomb attack at a crowded billiard hall killed more than 90 people, mostly Shia Muslims, in Quetta. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it carried out the bombing.
Following the incident, massive demonstrations were held across the country to denounce the violence against Shia Muslims.
The demonstrators shouted slogans against the government and criticized Pakistan’s security forces for failing to provide security to the country’s Shia Muslims.
They also denounced the Saudi Arabian policy of funding extremist groups that commit acts of violence against Muslims in Pakistan.
In addition, the protesters called on the government to take immediate action against the forces involved in the sectarian killings.
Commenting on the January 10 bombing in Quetta, the Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch said, “2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note.”
“As Shia community members continue to be slaughtered in cold blood, the callousness and indifference of authorities offers a damning indictment of the state, its military, and security agencies,” Ali Dayan Hasan added.
“Pakistan’s tolerance for religious extremists is not just destroying lives and alienating entire communities, it is destroying Pakistani society across the board,” he stated.
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|Last Updated on 17 February 2013 16:01|