Dozens killed in Pakistan blast

2013-02-16 18:09
Smoke rises following a bomb explosion targeting Shi'ite Muslims in Quetta, Pakistan. (Banaras Khan, AFP)

Smoke rises following a bomb explosion targeting Shi'ite Muslims in Quetta, Pakistan. (Banaras Khan, AFP)

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Quetta - A remote-controlled bomb targeting Shi'ite Muslims killed at least 47 people including women and children and wounded more than 200 in Pakistan's insurgency-hit southwest on Saturday, police and officials said.

The bomb exploded in Hazara town, an area dominated by Shi'ites on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of oil and gas rich Baluchistan province.

"At least 47 people have been killed and at least 200 more wounded. The death toll may rise. It was a remote-controlled bomb," Wazir Khan Nasir, senior police officer in Quetta, told AFP.

Sectarian attack

"It was a sectarian attack, the Shi'ite community was the target," he added.

Azhar Ali Shah, a second police officer, confirmed the death toll, which had initially been put at 10.

Provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told AFP that the dead included women and children.

"We fear more casualties. We have announced an emergency in hospitals," he said.

Durrani said the bomb was planted near the pillar of a building in a bazaar.

"The building collapsed due to the intensity of the bomb, some people have been trapped inside," he said.

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," home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told AFP.

"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.

An AFP photographer counted 30 dead bodies in only one hospital.

Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has increasingly become a flashpoint for sectarian violence between Pakistan's majority Sunni Muslims and Shi'ites, who account for around a fifth of the country's 180 million people.

Previous blast

At least 92 people were killed and 121 wounded on 10 January, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a crowded snooker club in an area of Quetta city dominated by the Shi'ite community.

It was Pakistan's worst sectarian bombing, claimed by Sunni Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf later the same month sacked the provincial government in Baluchistan after meeting Shi'ite Muslim protesters demanding protection.

The province is also rife with Islamist militants and a regional insurgency which began in 2004.

The insurgents demand political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's natural resources.

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