Bomb attack in Pakistan market kills at least 20

People survey the scene of a bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan, Apr. 12, 2019. EPA-EFE/JAMAL TARAQAI

ISLAMABAD.- At least 20 people were killed, almost half of them belonging to Shia Hazara minority, and 40 were injured when a bomb hidden in a sack of potatoes exploded in a crowded Pakistani market on Friday, officials said.

The explosion in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan in western Pakistan, took place when a significant number of people busy shopping at the local market in Hazarganji area, city police spokesperson Mohamed Aslam told EFE.

Fraz Hussain, a spokesman for the city government, told EFE that the improvised explosive device that detonated was hidden in a potato sack.

Authorities said at least half of the dead in the bombing were members of the Hazara community, a Shia minority group, which is often targeted by Sunni militants.

“The target was the Hazara community,» Hussain said. «Its members usually shop at this market.»

Those injured have been rushed to nearby hospitals.

The city – located some 900 kilometers (560 miles) to the southwest of Islamabad – are its surrounding areas are home to a large population of ethnic Hazaras, who are predominantly Shia Muslims.

According to officials, Hazaras visit the market everyday under heavy police protection.

Initial police findings indicate the bomb had been planted before Hazara shoppers reached the market on Friday.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack in a statement and asked for the injured to be given the best possible treatment.

Quetta is located in one of the most conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan. It has a considerable presence of armed separatist groups, Taliban factions and Islamist militants.

In July of last year, 149 people were killed in an attack in the province during poll rally in the midst of the general elections campaign. It was one of the worst attacks in the history of the Asian country.

The overall number of terror attacks in the country, however, has decreased significantly after the military launched an operation seeking to secure the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan in June 2014.

That operation was later extended throughout the country. The Pakistani military claimed that 3,500 alleged militants were killed in the operation.

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