QUETTA   -    After a considerable period of relative calm, Balochistan was rocked again by terror on Friday, resulting in loss of several lives and injuries to dozens others.

A bomb exploded in a vegetable market in Quetta in the morning, killing at least 20 people and wounding 48 others, police and hospital officials said.

On the other hand, two citizens including a child were killed and 10 injured in the evening in Chaman city, in a blast caused by an IED planted on a parked motorcycle at the main bazaar on Mall Road.

The explosion came when a Frontier Corps vehicle carrying troops was passing through, police said, adding that two FC personnel were among the injured.

The attack at Quetta’s Hazarganji market, believed to be targeting members of the Hazara community, claimed lives of nine Hazara and one FC soldier - who was deputed for the community’s security.

The 10 others who lost their lives included shopkeepers, businessmen and citizens working or residing in the area, according to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema. Four FC soldiers were among the injured.

The bombing, initially believed to be caused by a planted IED, was later termed by authorities as the work of a suicide attacker. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

TV footages showed several damaged shops and at least one paramilitary vehicle. A wounded man told reporters from his hospital bed how he had heard a loud explosion before he was struck down.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and several other leaders strongly denounced the Quetta bombing and expressed sympathies with the bereaved families.

“The attack took place in a [green grocer’s] shop. An IED was planted in a gunny sack filled with potatoes. Whether it was timed or remote-controlled, our experts will tell. Right now they are investigating,” DIG Cheema told reporters at the site of the attack.

“We are giving our attention to the wounded at this time,” he said. The injured have been shifted to hospitals ─ where an emergency has been imposed ─ for treatment.

“We have arranged transportation back [home] for Hazaras who remained unhurt in the attack,” said the police officer, who said they believed the Shia community was the target of the attack.

However, Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, who held a press conference later in the day, said that the blast was not targeting “a specific community”.

“Our guess is that no specific community was targeted. Marri Baloch and FC personnel were among those killed as well. The numbers of the Hazara community were just greater [in number],” Langove said.

He also described the blast as a suicide attack, saying that the bomber had walked up to the marketplace.

The minister said Pakistan’s enemies were trying to destabilise Balochistan, adding the security forces including police, Levies Force and FC were ready to protect people’s lives and property in the province.

Last year in April, five policemen had embraced martyrdom while eight Frontier Corps personnel were injured after a series of blasts in the provincial capital, Quetta.

He said measures were being taken to arrest the terrorists involved in Hazarganji incident, while security had been further tightened across the province. The work on Quetta Safe City Project would be started soon for development of security system in the city, he added.

Shortly after the bombing, dozens of angry Hazara Shia youths rallied in Quetta, demanding more security from the authorities and the arrest the culprits.

They also denounced the violence by Sunni extremists who have killed hundreds in similar attacks over the past years in Balochistan.

“Once again our people were the target and once again we will have to bury our dear ones,” said Qadir Nayil, a leader of the Hazara community.

“We demand more security from the government and all those involved in today’s act of terrorism should be found and punished.”

Condemnations

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the blast in Hazarganji and summoned a report on the incident.

The premier expressed his grief at the loss of innocent lives, and directed the authorities to ensure the best medical treatment for the injured.

President Dr Arif Alvi condemned the blast and expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives. In a statement, he termed it a “heinous act of terrorism which is a reminder for us as nation that few remnants of this menace are still left to be eliminated totally.”

Condemning the attack, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of the injured. He said the terrorists wanted to target the process of progress and development by harming peace in the country.

The valiant people of Pakistan have been boldly facing the menace of terrorism and time is not far when terrorists will be completely eliminated from the country, the minister added.

Opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif prayed for the departed souls and expressed condolences to the grieving families of the victims. He said the nation and its institutions have rendered great sacrifices to eliminate terrorism from the soil.

Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari wrote on Twitter: “Condemn the terrorist attack in Quetta. The government must stop dragging its feet & take action to counter violent extremism. Thoughts and prayers with the families of the victims.”

Balochistan governor Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, chief minister Mir Jam Kamal Khan and Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar also condemned the attack in the strongest words.