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Pakistan Market Bomb Blast Kills at Least 16 People in Quetta

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 16 people were killed when a bomb ripped through a vegetable market in Quetta in southwestern Pakistan early Friday, officials said. Eight of the dead were Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority group that has repeatedly been the target of Sunni extremists.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured at least 30 people. But Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant Sunni group, has often carried out attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province.

For years, the Hazaras have lived in a state of perpetual fear in Quetta, and promises made by successive governments have failed to ensure their safety.

While terrorist attacks have declined significantly in the past year across the country, Friday’s attack was a grim reminder that the Hazaras continue to remain vulnerable to militant violence and that the security provided to them remains inadequate.

A senior police official said the bomb went off in a sack of potatoes, and that the victims included shopkeepers and customers at the vegetable market. One paramilitary soldier was also killed in the blast.

The police ruled out a suicide bombing and said they were investigating whether a remote control or a timed device had set off the bomb.

Abdul Razzaq Cheema, a senior police official, said that people belonging to the Hazara group come daily in a convoy to the vegetable market from Hazara Town, a walled enclave on the outskirts of Quetta, and that they are provided with security. The bomb that went off Friday morning ignited when vegetables were being loaded during the early market rush.

The attack was widely condemned by government officials and rights groups.

“This horrific loss of life is a painful reminder of the threats that Quetta’s Hazara community continues to face,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “Each time, there are promises that more will be done to protect them, and each time those promises have failed to materialize.”

News credit : Nytimes