Monday, 8 August 2016

In Asia: Hospital Bombing Strikes Pakistani City of Quetta, 54 Dead

At least 54 people were killed on Monday in the restive Pakistani city of Quetta when an explosion, apparently caused by a suicide bomber, struck a hospital where dozens of lawyers had gathered to condemn the killing of a prominent colleague.

Officials in the southwestern city said that at least 50 people were wounded, most of them critically, and that the death toll was likely to rise.
The blast came after the shooting early Monday of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of the Baluchistan Bar Association, by unknown attackers. Local news reports said that he was killed by men on a motorcycle as he was on his way to court. As the news of Mr. Kasi’s death spread through Quetta, dozens of lawyers went to Civil Hospital, where his body had been taken for an autopsy.
As they protested the killing, a powerful blast ripped through the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department, leading to widespread panic. Television footage showed scores of lawyers running for cover as gunfire echoed in the background.
Some lawyers could be seen pushing a stretcher bearing a wounded colleague, as others urged them to safety. “Get inside, get inside,” one lawyer could be heard saying, waving, as others rushed into the hospital building. Two cameramen working for two local news networks were among those killed.
The bombing left a trail of destruction. The charred bodies of victims lay in pools of blood. Several vehicles parked nearby were damaged, and windows in nearby buildings were shattered.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing or for Mr. Kasi’s shooting. Officials said they were investigating possible motives for both assaults.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, a province bordering Afghanistan and Iran that has experienced separatist and sectarian violence for more than a decade, posing a challenge to successive Pakistani governments. Most of the violence in Quetta has been sectarian in nature, mainly directed toward the Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the bombing on Monday, urging the law enforcement authorities to increase security in Quetta. “No one will be allowed to disturb the peace in the province that has been restored thanks to the countless sacrifices by the security forces, police and the people of Baluchistan,” he said in a statement.
Mourners on Monday after the hospital attack in Quetta. The blast occurred shortly after the body of a prominent lawyer, killed by gunmen earlier in the day, had been transferred to the hospital.
#--newyorktimes.

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