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Pakistan: 80 Shi'as killed in sectarian bomb attack outside Quetta


The death toll has risen sharply in an attack against Pakistani Shiites on the outskirts of Quetta. A Sunni militant group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bombing, the second to hit the area in five weeks.

Rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble of a collapsed two-story building on Sunday, while a number of victims in a critical condition had succumbed to their wounds, increasing the death toll from a devastating bomb attack in southwestern Pakistan to at least 80 people.

Police official Fayyaz Saumbal said that at least 164 people had also been wounded by the powerful blast.

On Saturday, an 800-kilogram (1,750-pound) bomb detonated near a busy vegetable market in Hazara town, a Shiite district on the outskirts of Baluchistan's provincial capital, Quetta. The explosive device had been reportedly stowed in a water tanker, which was placed next to the pillar of the two-story building. The building collapsed in the explosion.

"We fear that several people have been trapped inside," said Quetta police chief Zubair Mehmood, referring to the destroyed structure. "Rescue work is ongoing but I see very little chance of their survival."

The Sunni Muslim militant group Lashker-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Baluchistan's governor declared a day of mourning and blamed the security forces for failing to prevent the attack.

"The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shiite community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces," Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi said while touring a hospital. "We had given a free hand to security [forces] to take action against terrorist and extremist groups, but despite that the Quetta incident took place."

Pakistan's minority Shiite population has been the target of a growing number of sectarian attacks carried out by Sunni militant groups over the past year.

On January 10, two suicide bombings in Quetta killed 86 people, most of them Hazara Shiites. Lashker-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombings. The attacks sparked days of protests, prompting Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to fly to Quetta, where he sacked the provincial government.

According to Human Rights Watch, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for Pakistan's Shiites with some 400 deaths, mostly from drive-by shootings.

Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is a flashpoint region in Pakistan. The province has been rocked by an insurgency since 2004, with nationalists demanding political autonomy from Islamabad and a greater share of the region's gas and mineral resources. Islamist groups are also active in the province.

slk/ccp (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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