A powerful bomb went off at an open-air market in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Friday, killing at least 16 people and wounding 30, police and hospital officials said.
The bombing struck near a Shiite residential area, according to senior police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema.
“It seems people from the (Shiite) Hazara community were the target,” he said, adding that some of the victims were listed in critical condition.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in Quetta’s Hazarganji neighborhood, but Sunni militants have claimed similar bombings in the past against Shiites, whom they view as apostates deserving of death.
The police chief said at least eight Shiites were among the dead, as well as a paramilitary soldier and seven other people. Four paramilitary troops, who were guarding the open-air fruit and vegetable market, were among the wounded.
Local TV footage 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.
Qadir Nayil, a leader of the Hazara community, asked the government to provide better protection for the Shiites.
“Once again our people were the target and once again we will have to bury our dear ones,” he said. “We demand more security from the government and all those involved in today’s act of terrorism should be found and punished.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi issued statements condemning the attack and adding that it would not weaken “the resolve of the nation in the fight against terrorism.”
Jam Kamal Khan, the chief minister of Baluchistan province where Quetta is the capital, also condemned the attack, saying “the enemy of humanity” is to blame.
Several militant groups operate in Baluchistan, which is also the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources such as gas and oil.