Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pakistan car bomb kills eight

A car bomb killed eight Pakistanis and injured at least 18 others on Friday in the southwestern city of Quetta, which is riven by ethic and sectarian violence, police said.
People carry a man to the hospital on a stretcher following a car bombing in Quetta, southwest Pakistan. The blast killed eight people and injured at least 18 others in an area riven by ethic and sectarian violence.
The car exploded in front of the house of the son of a former federal minister, Naseer Mengal, but police officials said it was unclear who had carried out the attack and whether the driver died in the blast.
"Eight people have been killed in the car blast and 18 others are injured. We don't know whether the driver was inside the car or not," Nazir Ahmad Kurd, a senior police official told AFP.
Quetta is the capital of the troubled Baluchistan province which neighbours both Afghanistan and Iran.
Police said the majority of the dead were passers-by making it even harder to piece together what happened.
"We are facing difficulties to know about the nature of the blast because many of the witnesses who were present at the scene have been killed," said Kurd.
Soon after the blast, private guards hired by the former minister's son, Shafiq-Ur-Rehman, opened fire and gunshots rang out at the scene for up to half an hour.
A photo journalist for a local news agency was wounded by the firing in the chaotic aftermath of the blast.
Baluchistan is gripped by a regional insurgency for self-determination. It is also a flashpoint for Taliban and sectarian violence.
Many parts of the province are a virtual a no-go area for journalists and are deeply troubled by the local insurgency and Islamist militancy, coupled with a rising number of sectarian attacks on minority Shiite Muslims.
The federal government, elected in February 2008, has struggled to implement reforms and inject more money in order to appease Baluch nationalists.
Hundreds of people have died since Baluch insurgents rose up in 2004 demanding autonomy and a greater share of the profits from natural resources in the mineral-rich province.
Baluch separatist rebels oppose the military presence in the province and there have been a string of attacks on troops in the area.
In October, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the government planned to create 20,000 jobs in Baluchistan, admitting that past neglect of the region had fuelled its troubles.
He announced a six percent employment quota in some federal government departments and the introduction of 3,000 jobs in tribal police for Baluchistan residents.
But previous attempts at regional reform have failed to raise the sparsely populated area from poverty and conflict.
In November 2009, the government announced a package of reforms, including an increase in the provincial budget as well as constitutional, administrative, political and economic reforms in a bid to grant Baluchistan more independence.
But there is dispute over how much of the deal ever came to fruition.