Islamabad: At least 16 people were killed and over two dozen others injured in a blast that targeted members of the ethnic Hazara community in Pakistan's Quetta city on Friday, police said.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema confirmed the toll and told Dawn News that eight of the victims belonged to the community, that has been targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance.
"The attack took place in a (green grocer's) shop (in Hazarganji area). An improvised explosive device (IED) was planted in a gunny sack filled with potatoes. We are yet to ascertain if it was timed or remote-controlled. An investigation is on," DIG Cheema said.
The victims also included a Frontier Corps (FC) soldier. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast as yet.
Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled in Quetta since fleeing Afghanistan to escape violence in their homeland during the past four decades. The city's Hazarganji area has been witness to similar attacks in the past.
Hazara shopkeepers are known to stock vegetables and fruits from the Hazarganji bazaar to sell at their own shops. They are provided a security escort to and from Hazarganji since they are constantly under threat of attack.
Cheema told Dawn that "people from the Hazara community come here daily in a convoy from Hazara town to buy vegetables. They are escorted by police and FC, and then they return there. It was the same today".
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal strongly condemned the attack and assured that the elements involved in the attack would be strictly dealt with.
"People who have an extremist mindset are a menace to society," Kamal said, adding: "We must foil the conspiracy to disrupt peace."
Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the blast and sought an inquiry report into the attack.
A report released by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) last year stated that 509 members of the Hazara community were killed and 627 injured in various incidents of terrorism in Quetta from January 2012 to December 2017.
According to the NCHR, targeted killings, suicide attacks, and bomb blasts have inflicted harm to daily life, education, and business activities of ethnic Hazara community members in Balochistan's largest city.