At least 101 people were killed in bombings in two cities in Pakistan on Thursday, officials said, with most casualties caused by sectarian attacks in the city of Quetta.
Two coordinated explosions killed at least 69 people and injured more than 100 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on Thursday evening, said Deputy Inspector of Police Hamid Shakil.
The first of two coordinated attacks in Quetta on Thursday evening’s attack, in a snooker hall, appeared to be a suicide bombing, local residents said. About ten minutes later, a car bomb went off, they said. Five policemen and a cameraman were among the dead from that blast.
The attack happened in a predominately Shiite neighbourhood and banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. The extremist Sunni group targets Shiites, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistani’s population.
Earlier in the day, a blast in Quetta’s market killed 11 people and injured more than 40, mostly vegetable sellers and secondhand clothes dealers, police officer Zubair Mehmood said. A child was also killed.
The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for that blast. The group is one of several fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves, which constitutes just under half of Pakistan’s territory and is home to about 8 million of the country’s population of 180 million.
Sectarian attacks are also on the rise, and militant groups frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighboring Iran.
In another incident Thursday, 21 were killed and more than 60 injured in a bombing when people gathered to hear a religious leader speak in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officials at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.
“The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people,” said Dr. Niaz Mohammad.
Police initially said the Swat blast was caused by a gas cylinder but later police chief Akhtar Hayat said it was a bomb.
It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.
The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani army since their 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.
But the Taliban retain the ability to attack in Swat and shot schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousufzai in Mingora last October.
A Taliban spokesman said they were not responsible for Thursday’s bombing.