JNN 12 April 2019 : – Atleast 20 people have been martyred and many more than 40 wounded in a bomb attack in a Shia-dominated part of the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta.
The bomb went off in a crowded vegetable market as people, many of them women and children, were shopping for groceries in the early hours of Friday
A bomb hidden among bags of potatoes at a Vegetable market killed at least 16 people, half of them ethnic Hazaras, officials said, in an attack apparently aimed at minority Shia Muslims.
At least 40 people were wounded in the blast in the southwestern city of Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, officials said.
The attack came after a lull of at least a year in attacks against Hazaras, though there have been isolated shootings. Quetta has a 600,000-strong Hazara community
The blast took place at Hazar Ganji, a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Quetta.
“So far, I have confirmation of 16 martyrs – eight belong to the Hazara community, seven others who worked here one is from the Frontier Constabulary,” Abdul Razzaq Cheema, Deputy
Inspector General of Quetta, told reporters.
Announcing the death toll, provincial minister Zia Langove said: “Four or five [of the wounded] are in critical condition.”
The explosive device was hidden between sacks of potatoes, he said. Hazaras have been frequently targeted by Taliban and Daesh militants and other Takfiri militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed the attack. The group said it collaborated with banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has been behind numerous bloody attacks on Hazara community in Balochistan. There was no immediate confirmation from LeJ.
The Hazara community staged a protest on the Western Bypass.
Since 2013, more than 509 Shia Muslims – mainly ethnic Hazaras – have been killed in a campaign of targeted shootings and bombings in Balochistan province, according to government data.
The majority of attacks have occurred in the provincial capital, Quetta, where most of the country’s roughly 600,000 Hazaras reside.
The city’s Hazara residents now live in two heavily protected enclaves on either side of the city, with movement outside of those areas restricted by threats to their lives.
Members of the community say they refrain from engaging in business or education in other parts of the city because of the risks.
Every morning, police guard a convoy that leaves the Hazara enclave to visit markets so that Hazaras may stock up on basic necessities.
This is not the first time vegetable traders have been targeted by attackers.
After a series of attacks, security forces started escorting Hazara buses to the market. On Friday, the same practice was followed but the blast took place inside.
Baluchistan is the focus of projects in the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep water port of Gwadar.