Pakistan lawyers protest as city mourns bomb victims

Lawyers in Pakistan stage a nationwide strike to protest the deaths of their colleagues in Quetta, where a suicide bomber killed at least 74 people on Monday.

QUETTA (Pakistan) • Pakistan's lawyers boycotted courts and staged protests nationwide yesterday after a horrific suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital which killed 72 people, including many of their colleagues.

Monday's bloodletting, with medics battling to save scores of injured amid scenes of carnage, left the south-western city reeling.

The police stood guard yesterday at the Civil Hospital, where the bomb tore through a crowd of some 200 lawyers who had gathered there the previous day to mourn the fatal shooting of a colleague.

Officials said the death toll had increased to 72, with more than 100 injured.

Both the Pakistani Taleban and the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have asserted responsibility for the attack, though neither claim has been verified by the Pakistani authorities.

Scores of lawyers held rallies in major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta.

"It's very tragic. Our seniors, who were our intellectuals, have been killed and may God reward them in heaven," lawyer Ghulam Muhammad told Agence France-Presse in Quetta.

Soldiers patrolled near-empty streets in the city as most public transport shut down, with markets and schools closed in mourning.

In Islamabad and Karachi, lawyers called for the authorities to protect civilians.

The Pakistani Taleban faction that claimed the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), was formed in 2014.

It also claimed responsibility for Pakistan's deadliest blast so far this year - the Lahore Easter bombing, which killed 75.

The United States State Department last week designated JuA a terrorist group.

Hours after the JuA announcement, ISIS also claimed the attack. The Middle Eastern terror group has struggled in Pakistan due to competition from well-established extremist groups such as the Taleban.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Pakistan lawyers protest as city mourns bomb victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe