Pakistan's minority Hazaras living in fear
Quetta: When a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with 300-kg of explosives in a Hazara Shia neighbourhood in this southwestern Pakistani city in January, Sher Mohammed and his friends spent the next few hours collecting body parts.
"We found body parts on the roads, on the roofs of buildings. We collected three bags of body parts, each bag weighing 20-kg. About 12 people were simply blown to pieces," Mohammed said at Alamdar Road, which was targeted by two suicide bombers on that cold winter's night.
On January 10, one bomber entered a snooker club in the basement of a commercial building and blew himself up.
As policemen, rescue teams and local residents converged on the narrow street outside the club, another bomber detonated an explosives-laden ambulance about 10 minutes later.
The two bombings, claimed by the banned Lashkar-e-Jhanvi, killed 96 people and injured dozens more.
Most of the dead were Hazara Shias, including 10 policemen from the minority community that has been repeatedly targeted by the al-Qaeda-linked LeJ.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Fayyaz Ahmed said the ambulance was packed with 300 kg of home-made explosives.
"The damage was on a scale we had not expected," he said. Nearly four months after the bombings, the building with the snooker club has been repaired and is about to reopen for business.
A crater in the street has been filled up, a screen has been put up to cover the damage caused by the second blast and few signs remain of the attacks.
But Sher Mohammed, 45, says he still feels uneasy when he remembers the devastation caused by the suicide bombers.
"There were bodies with no heads, no eyes, no limbs. Some had organs missing. Three men who were volunteers along with me for an ambulance service run by the Noor Welfare Society were killed. Everyone I know lost a relative or a friend," said Mohammed, who owns a butcher's shop.
All along Alamdar Road, there are posters with photographs of men who died in the January 10 bombings.
As a group of foreign journalists visited the neighbourhood this afternoon, a man came up to them and held up a board with the picture of a relative killed in the attack.
With authorities putting in place strict security arrangements for the Hazara Shias, who stand out due to their distinctive features, members of the community say business and normal life has been affected by threats from terrorists as well as the presence of security forces.
"We know the security personnel are here for our protection but they don't allow outsiders to enter the area. I have lost customers who were from other communities, like Punjabis and Pashtuns. We rarely go out of Mariabad, where most of us live," said Mohammed.
Asadullah, a 20-year-old Hazara youth who owns a small shop, said he would prefer to go away from Quetta to put behind him the constant threat of attacks. "If I had the money, I would leave. I would go anywhere," he said.