Death toll in Pakistani bombing climbs to 81

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 17, 2013 at 12:33 am •  Published: February 17, 2013

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from a horrific bombing that tore through a crowded vegetable market in a mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood of southwestern Pakistan climbed to 81 with many of the severely wounded dying overnight, a Pakistani police official said Sunday.

Police official Fayyaz Saumbal said 164 people also were wounded by the explosion Saturday in the city of Quetta just as people shopped for produce for their evening meal. The bomb was hidden in a water tank and towed into the market by a tractor, Quetta police chief Zubair Mahmood told reporters.

It was the deadliest incident since bombings targeting Shiites in the same city killed 86 people earlier this year, leading to days of protests that eventually toppled the local government.

Shiites have been increasingly attacked by militant groups who view them as heretics and non-Muslims in the country, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims. Many of the Shiites in Quetta, including those in the neighborhood attacked Saturday, are Hazaras, an ethnic group that migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan more than a century ago.

The remote-controlled bomb destroyed shops, caused a two-story building to collapse and left a massive crater where it exploded.

Local residents rushed the victims to three different area hospitals, often in private vehicles because there weren't enough ambulances to transport them.

Angry members of the minority Shiite sect protested in the streets, blocking roads with burning tires and throwing stones at passing vehicles. Some fired into the air in an attempt to keep people away from the area in case of a second explosion. Sometimes insurgents stagger the explosions as a way to target people who rush to the scene to help those killed or wounded in the first, thus increasing the death toll.

On Sunday morning, the city was completely shut down as people observed strike called by the Hazara Democratic Party as a way to honor the dead and protest the repeated slaughter of members of their ethnic and religious community.

Bostan Ali, the Quetta chief of the Hazara Democratic Party, said the group is planning another protest in the city similar to one held in January after twin bombings in Quetta killed at least 86 people. During that protest, Hazaras refused to bury their dead for four days, instead protesting in the streets alongside coffins holding their loved ones.

Continue reading this story on the...