Bloody day for Pakistan as blasts kill 114

2013-01-11 08:12
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier and local residents gather at the site of a bomb blast. (Arshad Butt, AP)

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier and local residents gather at the site of a bomb blast. (Arshad Butt, AP)

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Quetta - A string of bombings in Pakistan including a twin suicide attack on a snooker hall used by Shiite Muslims has left 114 people dead, in one of the deadliest days to hit the nation in years.

At least 81 people were killed and 121 wounded on Thursday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the crowded club in an area of the southwestern city of Quetta dominated by the Shi'ite community, a police officer said.

It was one of the worst single attacks ever on the minority community, which accounts for around 20% of Pakistan's 180-million strong population.

It was also the deadliest attack in Pakistan since twin suicide bombers killed 98 people outside a police training centre in the northwestern town of Shabqadar on 13 May 2011 - shortly after US troops killed Osama bin Laden.

Earlier on Thursday, a bomb ripped through a security forces' vehicle in a crowded part of Quetta, killing 11 people and wounding dozens more.

And in a third incident, a bomb exploded at a religious gathering in the northwestern Swat valley, killing 22 people and wounding more than 80.

Death toll could rise

At the snooker club the first suicide bomber struck inside the building, then 10 minutes later an attacker in a car outside blew himself up as police, media workers and rescue teams rushed to the site, said officer Mir Zubair Mehmood.

"The death toll has risen to 81 so far," Mehmood told a news conference, putting the number of wounded at 121.

"Both [attacks] were [carried out by] suicide bombers and the death toll could rise further," he added.

Mehmood said the dead also included nine police personnel and a local television camera man. Several rescue workers were also killed in the attacks, he said.

The snooker club was frequented mostly by Shi'ites, police said.

According to the US-based Human Rights Watch, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for Shi'ites in Pakistan.

No claim of responsibility

The organisation late on Thursday called the government's failure to protect the community, which accounts for around 20% of the population, "reprehensible and amounts to complicity in the barbaric slaughter of Pakistani citizens".

The bombings damaged several shops and nearby buildings. At least four vehicles of local ambulance service were destroyed and the blast site was also littered with the belongings of the victims.

People were seen wailing and crying beside the bodies lying on the ground, an AFP photographer said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Quetta has been a flashpoint for attacks against Shi'ites, in particular those from the ethnic Hazara minority, as well as suffering from attacks linked to a separatist insurgency and Islamist militancy.

Quetta is the capital of the province of Baluchistan, one of the most deprived parts of Pakistan but rich in natural gas and mineral deposits on the Afghan and Iranian borders.

Deadliest since 2008

The blast in the northwestern Swat valley took place at a weekly meeting of the local Tableeghi Jamaat (preachers' party) at its centre on the outskirts of Mingora, the main town in the district, regional police chief Akhtar Hayat said.

It was the deadliest blast in Swat since the Pakistan army declared it back under government control in July 2009 following a two-year Taliban-led insurgency in the valley.

"The explosion occurred due to a bomb. Around 5kg of explosives were used in the blast," Shafqat Malik, a senior bomb disposal official in Peshawar, said.

Initial reports had said the blast was caused by a gas cylinder exploding.

In the first attack in Quetta, bombers targeted Frontier Corps personnel, planting a device underneath an FC vehicle, a senior police investigator said.

"At least one FC personnel was killed and 10 others wounded, two of them seriously," FC spokesperson Murtaza Baig said.

Bomb disposal official Abdul Razzaq said the bomb, packed with 20 to 25kg of explosives, was detonated by remote control.

"I went out of my shop and saw a thick cloud of dust. I was very scared and saw people screaming in panic. There were dead bodies and injured people shouting for help," said Allah Dad, a local shopkeeper.

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