58 killed, hundreds injured in Quetta blast

Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) At least 58 people were killed and 176 injured when a powerful blast hit a market area in Pakistan's Quetta city Saturday evening, Xinhua reported.

Radio Pakistan, however, put the toll at 57 and the number of wounded at 250 in the blast which occurred on the Karani road in Balochistan province's capital city.

The blast levelled two markets, comprising over 60 shops, to ground while burying dozens of people under the debris, according to local TV channel Dunya. Several of the injured were in a critical condition.

It was triggered off by a remote controlled device and the explosives were fixed in a rickshaw, said Wazir Khan, a senior police official of Quetta.

The explosion happened in a town where a vast population of Hazara community of Shia Muslims is settled, he added.

Balochistan's Governor Nawab Zulfikar Magsi announced a day-long mourning for Sunday in the province which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

Local media quoted unidentified police sources as saying that an estimated over 100 kg of explosive materials were used in the blast.

Angry Shia protestors cordoned off the area following the blast and did not allow police, rescue teams and media to reach the site.

Hazara community has been targeted dozens of times in Quetta over the last two years in which hundreds of innocent Shia Muslims lost their lives, the government, however, failed to provide adequate security to them, the protestors said.

Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, a group of Shia Muslims announced a three-day mourning over the Saturday's incident and gave a strike call in the city for Sunday.

An emergency was declared in the hospitals following the blast.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf strongly condemned the blast and directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical assistance to the injured, Radio Pakistan reported.

The number of dead could rise as several people among the injured were in critical condition, said hospital sources.

No group claimed responsibility for the blast till last report.

This is the second major blast, targeting Shia Muslims in the area since the beginning of this month.

Last month, Governor's rule was imposed in Balochistan following twin bomb attacks in Quetta Jan 10, in which 86 people were killed and over 120 wounded, mostly Shia Muslims.

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