48 Shias Killed 140 injured in suicide attacks on religious procession in Quetta
QUETTA, QUETTA, March 3: A judicial injury has been ordered into the tragic incidents of firing and suicide attack on an Ashura procession that claimed 45 lives here on Tuesday.
Forty-five people were killed, more than 160 injured, and over 150 shops and commercial establishments as well as three houses were torched in terrorist attacks and subsequent acts of arson and rioting.
Till late night on Wednesday, the burial was not performed as the community leaders demanded removal of the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps for their alleged involvement in firing.
Chief Minister Jam Mir Mohammad Yousuf asked the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court to appoint a senior judge for conducting the probe, it was officially announced on Wednesday.
Quetta was placed under strict curfew and army troops virtually took over the city soon after the incident. They were patrolling roads and sensitive localities. The administration relaxed curfew from 4pm to 6pm in western parts of the city on Wednesday. There was no relaxation in affected localities.
The tragic incident took place on Liaquat Bazaar when the main Ashura procession moved towards Junction Chowk at around 1:10pm after a short stay at Meezan Chowk.
Witnesses said terrorists first hurled at least two hand- grenades and then opened indiscriminate fire at mourners from a vantage-point on the first floor of a roadside building called Bano Market.
"At least seven people were killed on the spot when grenades exploded and many others injured," Irfan Ali, an eyewitness, told Dawn. According to Irfan, a terrorist then came down and started firing on the procession.
Some people from the procession rushed to Bano Market and tried to capture the terrorists, but they blew themselves up. "Many people died when the terrorists detonated bombs hidden under their clothes," a security official, who was present in the area, said.
Yaqoob Tawasli, a leader of the Imam Jumma Organization, claimed that two terrorists were killed by the mob while another with injuries was handed over to the police. Mr Tawasli said a fourth terrorist, who had left the building and opened fire on the procession, was killed in the blast.
Police officials, however, said that two terrorists were killed in the blast and one was arrested. "They were three. Two were killed and one suspect is in our custody," they said, adding the suspect was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital. The killed terrorists were beyond recognition.
Witnesses said there was a stampede after the attacks in which many people were injured. "Security men and many other people started heavy firing after the terrorists' attack," said a witness, Rehman Khan, adding many people were injured in crossfire. He said some people tried to snatch arms from the security men.
Besides, a heavy exchange of fire was reported on the Mecongy Road between the police and an unruly mob who had tried to attack Imambargah Nasirul Aza. Constable Nisar Shah was killed and many other people were injured.
The armed men then spread to nearby streets and set fire to a newspaper's office on Jamiat Roy Road. Some of the newsprint lying outside the building was burnt. The arsonists also burnt three houses on Arif Road. The residents were saved by the area people.
After the terrorist attacks the police and other security officials 'disappeared' from the scene. The angry mob then attacked closed shops, markets, shopping malls, commercial establishments, hotels, etc.
They ransacked and torched over 150 shops and other buildings, including a cinema-house, a UBL branch and an MCB branch, on Prince Road, Liaquat Bazaar, Masjid Road, Meezan Chowk, Abdul Sattar Road and Mecongy Road.
The fire-brigade was not allowed by the mob to enter the affected localities as a result the burning private and public property was completely gutted. "A security guard of the MCB died of suffocation," hospital sources said, adding his body was recovered from the bank branch on Wednesday.
The situation was brought under control when army troops took control of the city following imposition of an indefinite curfew by the home secretary. Hospital sources confirmed 45 deaths. Five of those killed were police constables. Most of the 160 wounded, including a woman, received bullet injuries on upper parts of their bodies.
"Parts of the bodies of two terrorists were brought to the hospital," a doctor at the civil hospital said. All government offices, banks and other institutions remained closed on Wednesday. District Nazim Mohammad Rahim Kakar announced that all schools, scheduled to reopen on March 3 after two-and-a-half months winter vacations, would remain close till March 5.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at Imambargah Nachari, where 32 bodies were placed, Allama Syed Jan Ali Kazmi announced that the victims would be buried until the government removed the officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Frontier Corps who were allegedly involved in firing.
Preliminary investigations showed suicide bombers had come from some other province and they were not locals, the chief minister said.
"It was a suicide attack in which two attackers blew themselves up, Jam Yousuf said. One terrorist had been arrested and was being interrogated, he added. The chief minister condemned the incident. The injured were taken to the Sandeman civil hospital, the CMH and two private hospitals.
Sources said that majority of the victims succumbed to injuries in hospitals. The condition of some 15 injured was stated to be serious. The police and other agencies were investigating as to how terrorists reached a building on the procession route despite the tight security arrangements the administration had made to ensure safety on Ashura. The police have recovered weapons, from a room in the Bano Market, believed to have been used by the terrorists.
Quetta was the site of one of the deadliest acts of sectarian violence in years in Pakistan. Attackers armed with machine-guns and grenades stormed a Shiite Muslim mosque there in July, killing 50 worshippers inside.
Police said a leading suspect in the July attack is the brother-in-law of al-Qaida terrorist Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Shiites are a substantial minority in Quetta. Sectarian violence runs strong in Quetta's Baluchistan province, where radical Islamic groups share power with more moderate Sunni parties.
Allama Hassan Turabi, a senior Pakistani Shiite leader, demanded that Musharraf - who has repeatedly vowed to defeat extremism in the Islamic country - sack government officials, including the interior minister, for failing to prevent Tuesday's attack.
"This is not the first attack against us. Our people are not safe at homes. They are not safe in mosques," he said by telephone from Karachi.
Security had been stepped up nationwide in anticipation of Muharram, a month of mourning when Shiite Muslims recall the seventh-century death of Hussein, grandson of Islam's prophet, Muhammad.
The men were picked up in raids on their homes in the city’s
Saryab neighbourhood and were suspected to be members of two banned outfits,
a police investigator in the case, who declined to be named, told The
Another Quetta police official, who also requested
anonymity, confirmed the arrests.
The investigator named the two groups as Sipah-e-Sahaba
and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Police have previously said they suspect
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was behind Tuesday’s attack. The arrests came as
authorities released sketches of two men, not among the eight arrested, who
are suspected to have masterminded the assault.
Rahmatullah Niazi, the city police chief, said the two
were among several men who rented an apartment overlooking the procession
The investigator said that in a widening probe into
Tuesday’s attack, police teams had been sent to several other areas in
Balochistan looking for more suspects.
Niazi said the government has offered a reward of Rs 1
million for any information leading to the arrest of the two men in the
Our Quetta correspondent adds: Law and order situation in
Quetta remained under control as curfew continued on the fifth consecutive
day on Saturday with break of four hours in central parts of the provincial
metropolis, while there was a 10-hour break in curfew in the suburbs.
In Mezan Chowk, Mecongy Road, Prince Road, Abdul Sattar
Road, Liaquat bazaar, Masjid Road, Jinnah Road, Soruj Gunj Bazaar Street and
Kassi Road, there was a break in the curfew from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 4:00
pm to 6:00 pm.
Whereas in Satellite Town Brewery Road, Hazara Town, Joint
Road and Zarghoon Road there was break in curfew from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
During the break there were traffic jams on all the city’s roads for
10 nominated in Quetta killings
Quetta killings: eight suspects held
QUETTA: Police on Saturday arrested eight people for
alleged links to suicide attackers whose assault on an Ashura procession in
Quetta had killed 44 people and wounded 160 others, police officials said.
QUETTA, March 5: The Shia Conference of Balochistan and the people of the Hazara tribe, including heirs of the Quetta killings victims, jointly lodged a report on Friday with the City police station
, nominating 10 people in connection with the incident.
Representatives of both the groups, police said, visited the police station and handed over a written complaint to the SP, City, calling for registration of an FIR in this regard. The 10 people nominated by them included leaders of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba, senior officials of the Anti-Terrorist Force and other police officers.
SP City Israr Abbasi, while confirming that a written reported had been filed by the people of the Hazara tribe, said that a decision regarding FIR registration had not yet been taken, adding a decision in this regard would be taken by senior officials.
Govt rejects charge of 'police killings' in Quetta
ISLAMABAD, March 5: Responding to an unabated disquiet in the Senate, the government on Friday rejected charges that its own forces had shot most of the people killed during Tuesday's Ashura mourning procession in Quetta.
Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat also invited opposition to give suggestions to help the government improve security situation in the country as the role of police and other security agencies in handling the Quetta incident came under sharp criticism for the second successive sitting of the upper house within three days.
"It is totally wrong, it is absolutely untrue,...," he said about the charges by the opposition Senators and Shia community leaders in Quetta that more than 30 people were killed in police and Anti-Terrorist Force firing while others were killed by suicide attackers.
The minister put the death toll so far at 44, which he said was not final and could rise as about 150 wounded people were still in hospital. Thirty-eight bodies had been buried while the rest were lying in hospital unclaimed.
Mr Hayat said law-enforcement agencies had shown "maximum restraint" in the face of violence by protesters who went on a rampage after the attack on the mourning procession by what the government calls suicide-bombers and added: "The (casualty) figure would have been much higher if they (forces) had opened fire."
The minister side-stepped opposition charges of lapses by law- enforcement agencies, saying he would not blame any agency before the report of a judicial inquiry ordered by the Balochistan provincial government. Opposition Senators said their allegations of police killings were based on media reports and information from relatives of the victims.
They seemed to be dissatisfied with the minister's statement and continued to raise protesting voices, which provoked counter- protests from the treasury benches and a furore that was cut short by the muezzin's call for Friday prayers, after which Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro adjourned the house until another sitting in the afternoon to resume the continuing debate on President Pervez Musharraf's Jan 17 speech to parliament.
PPP parliamentary party leader Raza Rabbani accused the government of failing to provide facts and called a mere cover-up statement in the Senate by Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday that blamed all deaths on three alleged suicide attackers, two of whom were reported to have blown themselves up and the third was injured and arrested.
He said the Quetta incident should be seen in the context of a recent military operation against alleged terrorists outside Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan tribal agency, and a US State Department report alleging increased custodial killings in Pakistan.
Mr Rabbani, who also leads the 22-seat parliamentary group of the opposition Democratic Alliance in the Senate, accused the government of failing to maintain law and order and said there appeared to "no writ of state".
He wanted the government to explain its state of preparedness in Quetta before Tuesday's incident, why its strategy, if any, failed, why police took more than five hours to control violence, and how long the inquiry by a high court judge as ordered by the provincial government would take to make its report and what were its terms of reference.
Prof Khurshid Ahmed of MMA wanted to know the role of intelligence agencies in the matter and reasons of their perceived failure. Mr Hayat said all possible measures "within available resources" were taken, with paramilitary and police forces spread in whole of Quetta to provide a security cover to several mourning processions organized for the Ashura mourning.
But he said even billions of dollars spent by more resourceful countries had unable to prevent suicide attacks like "an act against civilized humanity" in Quetta. He said the government would have to make "a new strategy" to plug loopholes and called for opposition proposals.
"If they have any positive proposals to improve security, they should bring them (to us)," he said of opposition Senators who, he complained had so far only made critical speeches but not come forward with substantive plans.
"It is a war of all patriotic people of Pakistan who want to have a peaceful society in the country,", he said of the government's campaign against terrorism and religious extremism. "We want to stop such (terrorist) people and elements and institutions backing them."
Govt rejects charge of 'police killings' in Quetta
QUETTA, March 8: The Muttihada Majlis-i-Amal and a prominent Shia religious personality have blamed the federal agencies and fanatics responsible for the loss of human lives and destruction of property in Quetta on March 2.
They have urged the people to frustrate the designs of the conspirators by forging unity and solidarity in their ranks. Speaking at a joint news conference at MPA hostel on Sunday, MMA Balochistan chief Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, MNA, and Allama Yaqoob Ali Tawasoli, Imam of Jumma, announced that there was no dispute between Sunnis and Shias but invisible forces were dividing the followers of both the sects.
The two leaders condemned the killing of innocent people and destruction of property by terrorists and miscreants. Maulana Sherani alleged that 'agencies' were behind the armed extremist groups who were using fanatics for their ulterior motives by creating hatred between Sunnis and Shais.
He maintained that ulema of both the sects were addressing a joint press conference which "proves that there is no conflict between us." He stated that the MMA had a clear policy that did not accept armed groups, whether they be Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Muhammad, Sipah-i-Sahaba, Ansarul Islam or Mujihad group.
He added that federal institutions were patronizing the extremist factions who were out to create disorder in society. Responding to a question, the MMA leader, whose party is a coalition partner in the provincial government, said law and order was directly controlled by the federal government in the new district government system.
The provincial government, he said, had a minimum role, "so it should not be held responsible for the March 2 incident." About the possibility of governor's rule being imposed in the province, the Maulana said if the government wanted to disintegrate the country then Pakistan's name would be replaced with another name but we would be living in our homes with a new name.
He said the JUI-F had been successful in foiling the conspiracy of creating hatred between Pashtoons and Balochs in the province. Similarly, he said, "we would frustrate the designs of extremists to pit Sunnis and Shias against each other."
Allama Yaqoob Ali Tawasoli, Imam of Jumma, blamed the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi for the Ashura-day attack. He said the Kalashnikov recovered from the scene of the tragedy was inscribed with the name of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
When reminded that federal interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat had denied in the Senate that security forces had killed most people, Allama Tawasoli said the minister was uttering a lie.
He added: "We would produce evidence of security forces killing people before the Judicial Commission probing the incident." Allama Tawasoli declared that Shia followers fully believed in the unity of the Muslims but extremists and fanatics were indulging in the terrorist acts. It was the responsibility of the government to eliminate the saboteurs' network.
Those present on the occasion included MNA Maulana Noor Muhammad, Allama Juma Asadi, Syed Ashraf Zaidi, President Shia Conference, Balochistan, Maulana Wasay, senior minister, and Colonel (retd) Younus Chengazi, minister for forests.
AFP adds: A bloodbath which left 47 people dead after an attack on a religious procession in Quetta was mostly caused by security forces, a government minister said on Monday. "Most of the killings were caused by police fire instead of attack by terrorists," Younas Changezi sports minister for surrounding Balochistan told AFP.
Religious scholar warns of protests
QUETTA, March 14: Allama Maqsood Ali Domki, chief of Jafaria Alliance Balochistan, has warned that if the government did not accept their demands they will be compelled to turn the Chehlum of Quetta martyrs killed in an attack on the Ashura procession into a protest movement.
Speaking at a news conference at press club here on Sunday, he bitterly criticized the arrest of Allama Ali Jan Kazmi, saying that "Kazmi should have been apprehended at the time when he entered Quetta on March 3 and not when he was returning back to Karachi in a PIA flight on Saturday."
Alleging that the government was intentionally making the situation worse in the province, he said Allama Kazmi's detention was unjustified and resentment and anguish prevailed in Millat-i-Jafaria over his arrest.
Allama Domki condemned government's inappropriate steps to eliminate the network of the terrorists who had been involved in the attacks on Sardar Nasir Ali Hazara and others on June 8, July 4 and Ashura procession.