At least 11 Shia Muslims, including a woman, have been gunned down by unidentified assailants in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, triggering strong protests by members of the minority community who torched vehicles and shops.
Gunmen shot dead the members of the Hazara Shia community who were headed to work in a pick-up vehicle, in a sectarian attack in the capital of Balochistan Province on Saturday.
With Saturday’s killings, the toll in the violence targeting the minority community has risen to 18 since Friday.
The attack came a day after seven Shia devotees, who were heading to Iran to visit religious places, were killed by gunmen in Quetta.
The banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.
A spokesman for the group, who was identified as Ali Sher Haidri, said the attack was in retaliation for the murder of Sunni scholar Maulvi Karim, who was killed in Quetta in a firing incident on Thursday.
After the attack, hundreds of Shia Muslims gathered on Barori Road in protest, chanting slogans against the government and the police for their failure to check sectarian killings.
The angry protesters also blocked the main road.
They torched vehicles and shops outside a hospital, where several bodies of the slain persons were taken along and the injured persons admitted.
Additional police force was deployed in the city to check any reaction, a senior police officer said, adding the situation was now under control.
All dead bodies were taken to the central Shia mosque ’Imambargah Hazara Town’ Shia leaders also held an emergency meeting to chalk out future plans to protect their community against similar attacks.
Rahim Jaffry, a leader of the Shia community, said protests will be launched across the country if those responsible for the killings in Quetta were not arrested within 24 hours.
He said the government had failed to protect lives and the community was left with no option but to launch protests.
Shia groups also announced a shutter down strike in Quetta for Sunday and a 40-day mourning against the killing.
Quetta has witnessed a series of bomb blasts and sectarian and targeted attacks in recent weeks.
The Shia community accounts for around 15 per cent of the country’s population of over 170 million. Hindu