QUETTA – Gunmen shot dead eight people belonging to Hazara community in two separate incidents of sectarian violence on Saturday.

The Quetta roads immediately wore deserted look when infuriated protestors blocked different streets and torched a vehicle. The administration called in ten platoons of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) to control the situation.

In the first gruesome incident, unknown armed men opened fire at a yellow cab carrying people from the Hazara community on Brewery Road, killing six people and injuring another. “Hazara people were on their way to Marriabad from Hazara Town in a taxi. As they reached near Ibrahimzai cross they were ambushed by the armed men,” DIG Operations Qazi Abdul Wahid said, adding that it was a sectarian attack.

Soon after the first incident, unidentified armed men opened fire at two more people of Hazara community on Sabzal Road. As a result, one Gul Muhammad died on the spot while Muhammad Hussain succumbed to his injuries at Combined Military Hospital.

Separately, a police constable identified as Muhammad Pana was shot dead on the outskirts of Quetta, apparently in an incident of target killing.

In another incident, a student received bullet wounds when assailants opened fire on Toghi Road of Quetta.

The killings sparked protests in different areas of the city, including Prince Road, Brewery Road, Hazara Town and Jinnah Road where protestors burnt tyres and pelted vehicles with stones. The traders pulled down shutters of their shops and people were seen running helter-skelter. Within half an hour the roads were deserted with very thin traffic plying on them.

Angry Hazaras set a vehicle on fire outside the Bolan Medical Complex and ransacked the hospital while some protesters resorted to aerial firing in different parts of city, creating panic among residents.

The administration called in 10 platoons of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) to maintain law and order in the provincial capital.

A large number of people, including women and children hailing from Hazara community, staged a protest demonstration outside Brewery police station demanding immediate arrest of the culprits.

All educational institutions were closed and students were sent to their homes amid strict security measures.

Talking to media, Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai said involvement of foreign hand in these sectarian killings could not be ruled out.

He said a new security plan had been devised and it was decided that all available resources would be utilised to bring peace in Quetta.

He dispelled the impression that law enforcement agencies had failed to ensure law and order and added that media should also highlight the positive steps taken by the law enforcing agencies.

He said more troops were deployed to control the situation, besides they were making efforts to control the recent wave of terrorist acts that hit Balochistan.

Balochistan Shia Conference and Hazara Democratic Party have strongly condemned the killing of innocent people.

Balochistan Shia Conference has announced 40-day mourning while the HDP has given shutterdown and wheel jam strike call on Sunday (today) over the killings.

It bears mentioning here that 17 Shias including a woman have been killed during the past one week in the incidents of sectarian killings.

Banned religious outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) claimed responsibility for the attacks on Hazara community.

Ali Sher Haideri, claiming to be spokesman of Lashker-e-Jhangvi, phoned newspaper offices on Saturday night and delivered the claim.

Governor Balochistan Nawaz Zulfiqar Ali Magsi has strongly condemned the killing of innocent people and said continuous incidents of target killing were a challenge and matter of great concern for the provincial government.