Pakistani police and officials say at least 85 people have been killed in a bomb attack in the country’s troubled southwestern Balochistan province.
The attack took place on February 16 in a vegetable market in a predominantly Shi'ite area on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Quetta.
Local police officials said many of the victims were members of the Hazara Shi'ite community. More than 200 people were also wounded in the attack.
The banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bombing.
A senior police officer in Quetta, Wazir Khan Nasir, said the explosion was a “sectarian attack” which targeted the Shi’ite community.
Police said there were many women and children among the victims. A police officer said the bomb was detonated when the market was packed with people shopping for their evening meal. Local residents rushed the victims to several hospitals in the area.
Officials raised the death toll several times during the day, and said many of those wounded in the explosion remain in critical condition.
Members of the Shi’ite community took to the streets of Quetta in protest following the attack. They blocked roads with burning tires.
The Shi’ite minority in the region have been angered by what they describe as a lack of protection for their community against sectarian attack by Sunni extremists.
Leaders of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) have given the government 48 hours to crack down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
HDP said that after this deadline expires, the Hazara community will start protesting around the world.
Shi'ite Muslims have come under frequent attacks from hardline Sunni militants in the region in recent years.
More than 90 people, mostly Shi’a, were killed in two bombings in Quetta on January 10. Thousands of Shi’ite Muslims protested following the attacks, claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf sacked the provincial government in Balochistan last month after meeting Shi’ite Muslim protesters demanding protection.
Many of the Shi'ites in Quetta, including those in the neighborhood that was attacked on February 16, are Hazaras, an ethnic group that migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan more than a century ago.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, and the BBC