QUETTA/PESHAWAR: At least 101 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in bombings in Pakistan yesterday, officials said, with most casualties caused by sectarian attacks in the city of Quetta.
Two coordinated explosions killed 69 people and injured more than 100 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan in the evening, said Deputy Inspector of Police Hamid Shakil.
In another incident, 21 were killed and more than 60 injured in a bombing when people gathered to hear a religious leader in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officials at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.
The first of two coordinated attacks in Quetta occurred in a snooker hall. About 10 minutes later, a car bomb went off, as police, media workers and rescue teams rushed to the site. Five policemen and a cameraman were among the dead.
“Both were suicide attacks, it is confirmed now,” Shakil said.
The attack happened in a predominately Shia neighbourhood and banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. The extremist Sunni group targets Shias, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistani’s population.
Earlier in the day, a blast in Quetta’s market killed 11 people and injured more than 40, mostly vegetable sellers and secondhand clothes dealers, police officer Zubair Mehmood said. A child was also killed.
Allah Dad, a shopkeeper who sells blankets and small bags, said he heard a deafening blast. “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 bodies and injured people shouting for help.”
The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the blasts in Quetta. It is fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves, which constitutes just under half of Pakistan’s territory and is home to about 8 million of the country’s 180 million opulation.
Sectarian attacks are on the rise, and militant groups frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighbouring Iran.
The blasts were was the worst attack in Quetta since a suicide bomber blew himself up at a 2010 Shiite rally, killing around 50 people. The blasts disrupted power supplies and plunged the area into darkness.
A patrol jeep belonging to the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and seven other vehicles were damaged.
In Mingora, officials said: “The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people.”
Police initially said the Swat blast was caused by a gas cylinder but later police chief Akhtar Hayat said it was a bomb.
Bomb disposal official Abdul Razzaq said the bomb, packed with 20 to 25kg of explosives, was detonated by remote control.
It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.
The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani Army since its 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.
But the Taliban retain the ability to attack in Swat and shot schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousufzai in Mingora last October. She has recovered but will undergo further treatment in Britain. AFP