Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) The death toll rose to 84 in the devastating suicide bombing that hit a busy market in the Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, officials said Sunday.
Hospital sources and police confirmed the number of causalities, adding at least 173 were, including women and children, were injured in the Saturday explosion.
The attack targeted the market at the Karani road in Hazara town, an area dominated by Shia Muslims.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Wazir Khan said powerful explosives were fitted in the hidden cavities of a tanker that was driven to the busy market in the evening when people were busy in routine shopping.
The suicide bomber exploded the tanker-bomb that killed at least 63 people on the spot and injured around 200 others besides causing a heavy loss of property in the market.
Police said around 1,000 kg of explosives was used in the explosion. It was the biggest bomb ever exploded in the history of Pakistan, and it left 12 feet deep and six feet wide crater at the ground.
Soon after, police, security forces and rescue teams rushed to the site but angry people of the Shia Hazara community cordoned off the area and didn't allow any of them to enter and started rescue work by themselves.
The enraged people chanted slogans and pelted stones at the security personnel, saying the government machinery had failed to provide them with adequate security.
The Hazara Shias have been targeted dozens of time in Quetta over the last two years in which hundreds of people have lost their lives.
Later, high officials intervened through negotiations that convinced protesters to allow rescue teams to carry on operations at the affected site.
All the bodies and the injured were shifted to three hospitals where 21 of the injured succumbed to their injuries during the night, pushing up the death toll to 84 including 15 women.
According to the official sources, at least 20 critically wounded people would be airlifted to Karachi by an army plane.
The explosion destroyed dozens of vehicles and four nearby markets completely including a two-story building comprising over 40 shops that was leveled to the ground.
Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen and Hazara Democratic Party, the groups representing Shia community, announced three-day mourning and countrywide protest over the incident.
Shia clerics and scholars and tens of thousands of other people staged sit-in across the country Sunday expressing solidarity with the victims and demanding prompt actions to arrest the culprits.
The Balochistan government observed an official mourning across the province over the mass killings Sunday as the national flag was hoisted at half-mast at all state-owned buildings in the province.
Local media reported that spokesman of an anti-Shia banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi visited the injured and admitted his own failure.
Magsi added that he was trying his best to bring peace back to the province besides announcing one million rupees cash compensation for each of the deceased person's family.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf strongly condemned the incident.
This is the second major bomb attack that targeted the Shia Muslims in Quetta this year.
On Jan 10, at least 106 people were killed and over 150 got injured when a suicide attack followed by a car bomb blast targeted the Hazara community in the city.