suicide bombers killed at least 60 people who had gathered to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on Friday.
QUETTA, PAKISTAN — Munir Ahmed Baloch welcomed a group of visitors to his home in Mastung, a short drive from the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. About 50 kilometers (31 mi) away to condole the death of his younger brother Sarfaraz.
On Friday, the brothers gathered with hundreds of other worshipers outside a local mosque when a suicide bomber blew himself up. Congregations gather to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
In an instant, the celebration turned to grief, which now gripped the city in the southwestern province of Balochistan. The death toll from the blast has reached 60, while dozens more were injured and are being treated in Quetta, the provincial capital.
Among the dead was 24-year-old Sarfaraz. “I was sitting in the last row of the congregation, but my brother left my hand and walked forward. I can’t explain in words what I saw after the explosion,” said 35-year-old Munir Ahmed. phone. “Today all the streets and villages of Maston are in mourning. We cannot understand who would commit such a filthy act in a sacred religious gathering.”
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has distanced itself from the blasts. However, the riots that gripped the city two days later have not subsided. Businesses in Balochistan went on a shutdown strike on Sunday to mourn the victims of the Maston blast and express solidarity with their families. Shops were closed in Quetta, Maston and other cities like Khuzdar and Kalat. “We have announced a shutdown across the province to mourn the martyrs of the Mastone blast,” Mohammad Yasin Mengal, secretary general of the Quetta Business Community Members Association, told Al Jazeera. “Government should try harder to maintain law and order as terrorism is destroying business activities in Balochistan.”
Zahoor Ahmed mourned the death of four members of his family, two brothers and two cousins, in Kadkoch village, about 8 kilometers from Maston, on Sunday. , they went to the mosque wearing new clothes but had never put them on. new clothes. Back. “We participate in Eid celebrations every year to show our love for our Prophet. But those who attack innocent people on this holy day are not Muslims,” Zahoor said. He said he prayed to God to accept his brother’s martyrdom.
Pakistan has been battling armed groups for the past 15 years, but attacks in the South Asian country have increased since a fragile peace deal between the government and the TTP collapsed in November 2021. Earlier this year, a bomb exploded in a mosque in a police block in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 100 people.
Pakistan’s interim government, which is tasked with holding peaceful elections in the country in January 2024, has struggled with such attacks. Caretaker Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti claimed on Saturday that the government knows who is involved in the Mastona attack and that the culprits will not be spared. “We will do our best and work together to avenge the bloodshed of Pakistani citizens,” Bugti told reporters in Quetta. The Balochistan government announced a compensation of 1.5 million rupees ($5,184) for the victims of the Mastone blast.
But for families who have lost loved ones, money means nothing. Shahbaz Khan Baloch left for Quetta from the remote village of Sharif Abad on Sunday morning to visit his injured relatives who are being treated at the Trauma Center of Quetta Civil Hospital. He lost 13 family members in Friday’s blast. “The whole village is in mourning as many families lost four or five people in the blast,” he said.
He called on the Pakistani government to provide quality medical facilities to the injured family members, one of whom was hit by debris on the head and is in a critical condition. “We left them with joy and fully participated in the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, but a few minutes after the attack I received a call that a strong explosion had hit the congregation,” he recalled.
“I ran to the scene and all I saw was blood and bodies on the ground.”