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Death Toll Rises In Quetta Market Bombing

People gather after a bomb targeting Shi'ite Muslims exploded in busy market in Hazara town, an area dominated by Shi'a on the outskirts of Quetta in southwestern Pakistan.
QUETTA -- The death toll from a bomb attack on a market on the edge of Quetta in southwestern Pakistan at the weekend has risen to 85.

Police said the number of wounded stood at more than 200. Many victims were Hazara Shi'a.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a radical sectarian Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the attack on February 16.

Meanwhile political leaders of the Hazara community called on the government to take action, while members of the Hazara Students' Federation took to the streets of Quetta on February 17 to demand better security.

Speaking during a student protest in Quetta, Nasratullah, the head of the Balochistan Hazara Students Federation told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that his community felt not enough was being done to improve the security situation.

“Quetta is not a city,” he said. “I am not living in a city. Hazaras are living in a jungle. It is called Quetta Jungle. Here, those rule who have the power. Hazaras are hostages in the hands of terrorists. [Members] of government and security agencies are living luxurious lives with our tax money.”

Leaders of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) have given the government 48 hours to crack down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Hafiz Hamdullah, a leader of the Jammat-e-Ulama Islam religious party and a Pakistani senator criticized the authorities for being slow to react.

“It is the responsibility of our state to find out who are behind these kinds of attacks and who are those taking responsibility for these attacks?” he said. “Many human beings have been killed, including Shi’a and Sunni religious scholars. And now this incident! There are more than a dozen intelligence agencies working in the country. However, Pakistani agencies have not reached the attackers, neither have we seen them arrest those involved in such attacks.”

The HDP said that after the deadline expires, the Hazara community will start protesting around the world.

Shi'a have been increasingly attacked by militant groups who view them as heretics and non-Muslims in the Sunni Muslim dominated country.

Many of the Shi'a in Quetta, including those in the neighborhood attacked on February 16, are Hazaras, an ethnic group that migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan more than a century ago.