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Governor cites 'failures' for Pakistan attack

Balochistan province chief blames lapse in "security and intelligence forces" for market bombing that killed 84 people.
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2013 17:47

The governor of Pakistan's Balochistan province, where at least 84 people were killed in a bomb attack targeting Hazara Shia Muslims, has called the lapse "a failure of the intelligence and security forces".

Zulfiqar Magsi said that his government "had given a free hand to security [forces] to take action against terrorist and extremist groups, but despite that the Quetta incident took place". He spoke while conducting a tour of hospital on Sunday.

At least 200 people were wounded in the blast on Saturday, in which an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in the middle of a crowded vegetable market in an area frequented by Hazara Shias.

Community leaders told Al Jazeera that families were still identifying the dead, and that the death toll was expected to rise with several of the wounded in critical condition.

Quetta attacks
Since January 10, more than 204 people have died in attacks in the southwestern city. The majority of the victims have been from the Shia minority.

 January 10: 117 killed, over 200 injured Alamdar Road
 January 12: 2 killed on Brewery Road
 January 15: 3 killed in Bakra Mandi
 January 19: 4 killed in Khameesa Khan Bugti area
 January 21: 3 killed near Saryab Road
 January 23: 1 killed in fighting
 January 24: 2 barbers killed
 January 25: 7 bodies found outside Quetta
 February 7: 3 killed in Archar Road gunfight
 February 9: 1 killed in Kachlak
 February 16: At least 84 killed in Hazara Town

A vehicle packed with about 800kg of explosives caused the massive explosion and the blast caused several nearby buildings to collapse, officials said.

On Sunday, people searched for survivors under blocks of cement torn off from buildings by the blast.

A large blood stain could be seen on a wall near the site. Many shops and bazaars were closed. Relatives of the wounded responded for an appeal for blood made by hospitals.

Resucers and volunteers were hesitant to go near the blast site immediately after the attack, witnesses said, for fear of another explosion. 

The fear of follow-up attacks targeting the Hazara Shia population comes a month after twin blasts killed at least 90 people on Alamdar Road, another mainly Hazara area of the provincial capital of Balochistan.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an armed Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday. LeJ also claimed responsibility for the January 10 attacks on Alamdar Road, which led relatives of the victims to refuse to bury their dead while they held a 76-hour protest sit-in.

In response to their demands, the provincial government was sacked and local paramilitary forces were accorded police powers.

Under siege

Hazara activists, however, allege that the paramilitary forces are complicit in the attacks against them.

"Governor rule may have come, but the administration is the same," said Qayyum Changaizee, the chairman of the Hazara Qaumi Jirga, adding that no additional security had been accorded to the community since the January attacks.

"We have grown tired of picking up the bodies of our loved ones. I have lost three family members so far in such blasts."

- Nasir Ali, government employee

Syed Qamar Haider Zaidi, a spokesman for local Shia Muslim groups, condemned the Pakistani government for not providing protection to the community and announced three days of mourning and protest over the latest attack.

Azizullah Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, on Sunday gave a 48-hour deadline to the provincial government to launch targeted operations against the killers or face a protest movement.

Last year was the deadliest so far for Pakistan's Shia Muslim community, which accounts for about 20 percent of the population, with more than 400 people dead in targeted killings. Violence has been especially intense in Balochistan.

Shia Muslims in Quetta and other cities say they are under siege.

"We have grown tired of picking up the bodies of our loved ones," said Nasir Ali, 45, a government employee. "I have lost three family members so far in such blasts."

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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