47 killed in Quetta mosque attack
* Curfew imposed as protesters wreak havoc in city
By Azizullah Khan
QUETTA: At least 47 people were killed and 65 injured when three unidentified men attacked an Imambargah on Mekangi Road here on Friday.
Army and paramilitary troops were deployed in the city and a curfew was enforced when hundreds of enraged people took to the streets to protest what an eyewitness described as a suicide attack.
Zulfiqar Ali, the eyewitness, said three men entered the Imambargah when people were offering Friday prayers. They opened “heavy” fire when they were stopped by a guard and continued shooting for several minutes. He said the attackers then unpinned grenades, which exploded, killing two of the three men. The third attacker died later in a hospital.
Another eyewitness, Khan Ali, 70, was injured in the grenade explosions. He couldn’t get medical treatment as the roads were blocked by protestors. Ali said he was praying when he heard the gunshots. “Everything was destroyed, nothing was left,” the apparently dazed man said. Sources said the death toll could be higher as many dead bodies were lying in the Imambargah, the Boland Medical Complex and the Civil Hospital. They said there were 14 children among the dead and injured.
Soon after the incident, members of the Hazara community blocked the roads and started pelting stones on people passing through the area. Later, they opened indiscriminate fire in front of the Civil Hospital. A number of journalists and policemen narrowly escaped the shots. The protestors also burnt tyres on Jinnah Road and resorted to violence. They ransacked the casualty ward at the Civil Hospital and assaulted a number of patients and doctors.
Balochistan Health Minister Hafiz Hamdullah said the doctors escaped when the protesters started an agitation in the emergency ward of the hospital. The injured were rushed to the CMH hospital in ambulances and other vehicles.
The enraged protesters surrounded a Sunni religious institution in Marriabad and set a few houses and a part of the institution on fire. The protesters remained there for many hours and did not allow the police and administrative officers to approach the area.
Sources said the protestors killed two people, including a student at the institution but the report could not be confirmed. The district administration announced the closure of all educational institutions in the city and traders have announced a two-day protest strike.
The senior superintendent of police said funeral prayers for the victims would be held today and strict security measures have been adopted in the city and other sensitive parts of the province. He said the army took over the city and situation was now “under control”.
Musharraf, Jamali vow to crack down on extremists
PARIS: President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali on Friday condemned the attack on a mosque in Quetta which left around 45 people dead and vowed to pursue extremist elements. President Musharraf, who was briefing journalists in Paris at the end of a four-nation tour, said he did not know details of the attack or who was responsible. But he said there were “some elements in Pakistan that undermine whatever the vast majority stands for”. “We have to act very strongly against them,” he said, noting that the government was aware of ‘vested interests’ working against the authorities in Islamabad. He said it was clear to him that “the vast majority of the people of Pakistan certainly do not contribute to extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism” Prime Minister Jamali, meanwhile, directed the provincial authorities not to spare any efforts in apprehending those responsible for the “heinous act of brutality”. He reiterated that his government was against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and offered his condolences for the victims’ families. —AFP/APP