KARACHI: At least six people were killed and dozens injured tonight when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a crowded market at a predominantly Shiite area of volatile Pakistani city Quetta.
The powerful blast occurred close to a girls' school at Hazara town in the capital of restive Baluchistan province.
City police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema said that the suicide bomber blew himself up in Aliabad locality which was crowded with Eid shoppers.
Cheema said the bomber was approaching the local market when police stopped him at a checkpoint. At that point, he detonated his explosives, killing six people and injuring several others.
"He detonated himself at a time when people were out shopping for Eid. The casualties could rise," Cheema said.
Hazara town is inhabited mainly by the ethnic Hazara Shia minority, which has been often targeted by extremist militant groups in the past.
"Several people are injured in the blast and some of them are in critical condition," said another police official, Pir Baksh, who was at the site when the blast took place.
The injured were being rushed to the Bolan Medical Complex Hospital and Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
A Balochistan government spokesman said emergency has been declared at all state-run hospitals.
The blast was heard far and wide, causing panic among people who ran helter-skelter. Some people also resorted to aerial firing before rescue teams and police official reached the spot.
"There was a crowd of people at the site when the bomb went off," said another police official.
Last year, there were two major suicide bomb blasts in Hazara town, and in late June a suicide bomber blew himself up at the site of tonight's blast. At least 30 people were killed and 70 injured in that blast.
In February last year, around 84 people were killed and 200 injured when a suicide-bomber rammed a tanker filled with explosives into a three-storey building in a market area of Hazara town.
Banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibilities for these attacks.
Quetta is the capital of resource-rich Balochistan province -- home to a long-running separatist conflict that was revived in 2004, with nationalists seeking to stop what
they see as the exploitation of the region's natural resources and alleged rights abuses.
In the past few years, the provincial capital has also been a flashpoint for sectarian violence mainly targeting the ethnic Hazara community.