PAKISTAN: 16 dead, dozens injured in Quetta market blast

Quetta Pakistan market blast
A bomb blast in an open-air market in Quetta, Pakistan, killed at least eight members of the persecuted Hazara community, who have repeatedly been the target of sectarian violence as they are Shiite Muslims. (Jamal Taraqai/EPA-EFE photo)

QUETTA, Pakistan (UPI) — At least 16 people were dead and dozens injured Friday after an improvised explosive device exploded at a vegetable market in western Pakistan, police said.

Police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema said that among the dead were one soldier and eight members of the persecuted Hazara community, who were the target of the attack.

“The attack took place in a shop,” Cheema said. “An improvised explosive device was planted in a gunny sack of potatoes. Whether it was timed or remote-controlled, our experts will tell us. Right now, they are investigating,” Dawn reported.

Shopkeepers, businessmen and local residents also died in the blast at the Quetta city open-air market and at least 30 people were injured.

The police, military and rescue workers transported the injured to a local hospital while security forces cordoned off the blast site.

Buildings in the vicinity also sustained damage, police said.

Jam Kamal Khan, Chief Minister for Balochistan province, the capital of which is Quetta, condemned the attack, saying those responsible would be held accountable.

“People who have an extremist mindset are a menace to society,” he said. “We must foil the conspiracy to disrupt peace.”

The large explosion occurred at 7:35 a.m. in the market, which has previously been the target of similar sectarian violence as the shopkeepers of the persecuted Hazara community shop in the market and live in the vicinity.

The Hazara community has often been the target of sectarian violence. According to the National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan, the unique facial features of the Hazara people make them susceptible to attacks and 509 members of the community have been killed over five years ending December 2017.

Reporting by Darryl Coote

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