A powerful remote-controlled bomb targeting Shiite Muslims went off on Saturday in Quetta city in southwest Pakistan killing at least 40 people, including women and children, and injuring about 130 others.
The explosion occurred at Kirani Road, a neighbourhood of Quetta with a sizeable Shia population that has been targeted by terrorists in the past.
Mutthaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader, Dr Farooq Sattar confirmed at a press conference in Karachi that more than 35 people belonging to the Hazara Shia community had been killed in the blast.
Rescue officials backed the figures by Sattar, confirming that at least 40 people, including women and children, had been killed in the blast while around 130 were injured and many of them were in critical condition in different hospitals.
All the dead were from the Hazara community and the casualties might rise as the bomb explosion caused lot of damage, DIG Wazir Khan Nasir told reporters.
"The blast took place on Kirana road market and it was through a remote controlled device," Nasir said.
The injured were taken to nearby hospitals. Officials described the condition of several of them as serious.
The blast which was planted in an auto-rickshaw, blew out windows and damaged several residential buildings and shops. Footage on television showed a plume of smoke rising into the sky after the blast.
Security forces cordoned off the area and did not allow people to approach the site of the blast.
Officials said this was done as terrorists had set off a bigger bomb after a smaller initial blast in recent attacks.
Members of a bomb disposal squad searched the area.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Similar attacks in the recent past have been blamed on the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a notorious militant group that often targets Shias.
On January 10, a twin suicide attack in Quetta killed 92 Hazara Shias, the highest toll in a single attack on Shias, who make up 20 per cent of Pakistan's population of 180 million.
Shia groups asked people to observe three days of mourning and called for a strike in Quetta tomorrow to protest the killing of members of the minority community.
The blast rekindled memories of the twin blasts, including a suicide attack on Alamdar road in the city last month, in which 100 people were killed and about 130 injured.
The Shia leaders had staged a four-day sit in on Alamdar road after that blast to demand security and protection for Shia Muslims in the Balochistan province.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had to go to Quetta and meet with the Shia leaders who only ended their sit-in after President Asif Zardari imposed governor's rule in the province.
The Shia leaders at that time had demanded that Quetta and other parts of the province be handed over to the military.
After today's blast the powerful Shia organisation, Wahdatul Muslimeen, announced a strike in Balochistan province tomorrow.
After the blast enraged people took to the streets in many areas of the city and protested the blast, pelting vehicles with stones and blocking roads.