Ministry rejects claim behind market blast

April 11, 2014 - 6:22:48 am

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry yesterday  rejected claims by a Baluch separatist group that it carried out a bombing at a market in Islamabad that killed 24 people.

The United Baluch Army (UBA), one of a number of militant separatist outfits from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, said it staged the attack -- the deadliest in the Pakistani capital since 2008.

But a spokesman for the ministry dismissed the claim.

“Initial investigations have revealed that the United Baluch Army has no links with Wednesday’s attack,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“Accepting responsibility by this organisation for the blast is not only surprising but ridiculous.”

A bomb tore through the bustling wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the edge of the capital at around 8:00am on Wednesday as hundreds of traders gathered to do business.

The UBA statement was the first time a Baluch group had claimed an attack in Islamabad, parts of which are heavily guarded.

Various Baluch groups have waged a bloody insurgency for at least a decade to demand more autonomy, a greater share of their province’s mineral wealth and in some cases full independence.

But their activities have largely been confined to Baluchistan, a huge, sparsely populated province bordering Iran and Afghanistan.

They regularly attack security forces in the province and blow up gas pipelines.

A senior official in Baluchistan said he shared the interior ministry’s scepticism about the UBA claim.

“These groups don’t have the capability to strike outside Baluchistan. Even in Baluchistan they are restricted to specific areas where they carry out their attacks,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The UBA also claimed responsibility for a bomb blast on a train on Tuesday which killed 13 people in the southwestern town of Sibi.

The market hit by the blast is known to be riven with protection and extortion rackets, and talk among traders has pointed to this as a possible reason for the attack.

Hundreds of businessmen and labourers gathered yesterday at the site of the blast to offer prayers for the victims and demand government action to protect them.