Nine killed in gun attack in Pakistani city of Quetta

The BBC's Charles Haviland said the Pakistani government does not know who is responsible for the attacks

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At least nine people were killed when gunmen opened fire outside a mosque in the second attack in Quetta in south-west Pakistan in as many days.

About 20 others were wounded in the attack, which came as worshippers left the Sunni Muslim mosque after sunrise prayers for the Eid al-Fitr festival.

Bullets hit the car of Ali Madad Jatak, a former Pakistan People's Party provincial minister, but he was unhurt.

On Thursday dozens of people died in a suicide bomb blast in Quetta.

In the latest attack, four unidentified men opened fire on the former minister as prayers came to a close.

Pakistani bystanders carry an injured Muslim outside a hospital in Quetta on 9 August, 2013, following an attack by gunmen on a mosque. Bystanders helped carry the wounded into hospital
Pakistani bystanders help an injured Muslim youth as he sits in a pickup truck amidst bodies outside a hospital in Quetta on 9 August, 2013, following an attack by gunmen on a mosque. Children were among those wounded in the shooting
Pakistani bystanders help an injured Muslim man as he sits on a stretcher outside a hospital in Quetta on 9 August, 2013, following an attack by gunmen on a mosque. Witnesses said the gunmen lay in wait outside for the worshippers
Pakistani Muslims gather at the site of an attack by gunmen in Quetta on 9 August, 2013. The shooting took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque after prayers
Pakistani Muslims gather at the site of an attack by gunmen in Quetta on 9 August, 2013. No group has said it carried out the shooting, which took place near Quetta's eastern bypass.

Start Quote

I was the target... This is against humanity. It is brutality on the level of animals”

End Quote Ali Madad Jatak Former Balochistan minister

"They fled after killing innocent people," Mr Jatak said. "I was the target. They could have fired at me. They killed innocent worshippers belonging to different communities. This is against humanity. It is brutality on the level of animals."

Mr Jatak held a ministerial role in the Balochistan provincial government, as a representative of the PPP, which headed the last national coalition government.

"When people came outside on the stairs, the terrorists were already present there," Mohammad Adnan, a witness, told the Associated Press news agency. "They started shooting and targeting many people. Two children were among the martyrs and around 20 people were injured."

No group has said it carried out the shooting, which took place near Quetta's eastern bypass.

Four people died at the scene while the others succumbed to their injuries in hospital, a senior local police official, Bashir Ahmad Brohi told the AFP news agency.

Map showing bomb attack in Quetta of 8 August and mosque shooting of 9 August 2013

"The government should take strong action on the Quetta incident," said Hafiz Muneeb, one worshipper at a mosque in the capital, Islamabad. "We are depressed that such a tragic incident happened."

Analysis

Even in a country riddled with violence, the city of Quetta and the province of Balochistan have become an epicentre.

The largest and least populated of Pakistan's provinces, Balochistan harbours a separatist insurrection by the Baloch Liberation Army.

It also sees regular Taliban attacks as well as sectarian violence perpetrated by Sunnis against Shias, often ethnic minority Hazaras.

The Baloch are outnumbered by both Pashtuns and Hazaras, and according to the writer Ahmed Rashid Pakistan "allows the Afghan Taliban - who are Pashtun - to run their war against US forces in Afghanistan from Quetta" - although Pakistan denies this.

The violence is relentless. This week alone Quetta has seen attacks on three successive days, killing at least 42 people. In June two days of bloodshed saw at least 53 dead including a large number of female students - first their bus was bombed, then so was the hospital treating the survivors.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal website says over 2,000 people have perished in militant attacks in Balochistan in the past five years while more than 700 security personnel were killed.

There have also been thousands of enforced disappearances, seemingly at the hands of the state. The bodies of hundreds of people have been found dumped by roadsides.

Another worshipper, Abdul Rehman, said Eid al-Fitr was a day of love, unity and brotherhood. "People should unite to spread love and remove hatred. We should aim for peace and stability in the country," he said.

Quetta has seen a recent surge in sectarian violence, mostly targeting the Shia Muslim minority.

The city is the provincial capital of Balochistan, which is plagued not just by the Taliban's insurgency, but also by sectarian in-fighting between Sunnis and Shias and a rebellion by Baloch separatists.

On Tuesday militants from the separatist Baloch Liberation Army shot dead 13 bus passengers 70 kilometres (44 miles) south-east of Quetta.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power in June after promising to negotiate with militant groups.

Officials said they were preparing a comprehensive security strategy, bringing together delegates from all political parties, in an effort to combat violent extremism.

However the strategy has not yet been released, and no all-party meeting has yet been scheduled.

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