Islamabad, Pakistan – 20 individuals are murdered and a second 40 hurt within an explosion ripped through a marketplace in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, a provincial official says, the most recent strike to target the city’s minority Hazara community. 

Announcing the death toll, provincial Union Zia Langove explained:”Four or five [of the wounded] have been in critical state.”

The explosion took place as Hazaras, that are Shia Muslims, were purchasing lettuce early on Friday morning.

“Members of the Hazara community go to the market daily to shop, and we supply them with a safety escort,” Quetta police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema told Al Jazeera by telephone.

“They had been in the market as authorities and [paramilitary] Frontier Corps soldiers patrolled the region. There was a store selling balls, and that is the point where the explosion has taken place.”

Pictures from the scene of the explosion showed blood flow across the dirt floor of this current market, damaged automobiles along with sacks of potatoes split open by the power of the explosion.

Cheema said authorities would not know whether the bomb was planted or a suicide assault until investigating teams, who had cordoned off the site, finished their investigation.

“The bomb appeared to have been set from the potato sacks, however we cannot rule out whether it was a suicide attack just yet,” he explained.

At least seven members of the Hazara community and one paramilitary soldier had been among those killed, ” he explained.

At a press conference later he said there’d been no warning that the market may be assaulted.

“There are a great deal of general security dangers issued, however, for this particular place there was no specific threat.”

Targeted campaign

Since 2013, more than 509 Shia Muslims – mainly ethnic Hazaras – have been killed in a campaign of targeted shootings and bombings in Balochistan province, according to government data.

The majority of attacks have happened in the provincial capital, Quetta, in which the majority of the nation’s approximately 600,000 Hazaras live.

The city’s Hazara residents now reside in two heavily protected enclaves on each side of town, with movement outside of those areas restricted by risks to their lives.

Members of their community say they refrain from participating in business or education in different areas of the city due to the dangers.

Every morning, authorities protect a convoy that renders the Hazara enclave to see economies so that Hazaras could stock up on basic necessities.

That really isn’t the first time vegetable dealers have been targeted by attackers.

Back in October 2017, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a van jump for the fruit and vegetable market, killing the driver and four others, authorities state. 

The strikes have been connected into the far-right Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) Sunni Muslim political party, and its associated Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) restricted group. 

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault on Friday.

Asad Hashim will be Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.


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