Saturday, September 04, 2010

55 killed in Quetta rally attack

 * Over 200 injured as bomber targets Al-Quds rally 

* Police blames rally participants for diverging from set route 

* Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claims responsibility

By Mohammad Zafar

QUETTA: At least 55 people lost their lives, while over 200 others were injured 
on Friday after a suicide bomber blew himself up amidst participants of a rally 
held to mark the Al-Quds Day in Quetta. 

The deadly blast triggered chaos and panic in the provincial metropolis's busy 
Mezan Chowk.

Calling from an undisclosed location, a spokesman of the banned 
Lashkaar-e-Janghvi, claimed responsibility for the attack and warned that the 
group would "carry out more attacks if Shias continue to take out processions 
and hold gatherings".

According to eyewitnesses, a group of armed men started indiscriminate firing 
after the blast, injuring dozens of people.

The Imamia Students' Organisation had organised the rally that started from 
Islam Imambargah, located on the Prince Road, soon after the Friday prayers to 
express solidarity with the Palestinian people. Hundreds of people joined the 
rally as it moved towards the centre of the city.

"Police tried to stop the rally near Mali Bagh and asked the participants not 
to proceed any further, owing to security concerns. However, nobody listened to 
us," said City police Station House Officer (SHO) Muhammad Asif, adding that 
the participants did not follow the route that had been approved by the police. 
"We had earlier told them that no officers were deployed in Mezan Chowk and 
they should follow the given route. But they did not follow the instructions," 
he said.

A number of young men, who were at the head of the procession, removed police 
barricades and continued to march forward. When the procession reached Mezan 
Chowk, the suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest. 

As result of the huge blast, 25 people were killed instantly, and human limbs 
were scattered everywhere. A number of motorcycles parked nearby caught fire, 
sending up plumes of black smoke.

According to the Bomb Disposal Squad, 10 to 15 kilogrammes of explosive 
material was used in the blast.

Talking to reporters, Provincial Police Officer Malik Muhammad Iqbal claimed 
that the police had tried to warn the participants and their refusal to listen 
to the police caused the incidence. 

Police later found the head of the suspected suicide bomber, who was said to be 
between 25 to 30 years of age.

An employee of a private TV channel was also among the dead, while eight other 
journalists also sustained injuries. All of them were covering the rally when 
the blast took place.

Attack condemned: President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza 
Gilani both have strongly condemned the attack. In separate messages, both the 
leaders stressed that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes were the enemies 
of the country and would not be spared.

The Balochistan Shia Conference and the Tahaffuz Azadari Council have announced 
a 40-day mourning period.

In a statement, both groups have strongly criticised the government and the 
police for failing to protect the rally participants.

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