Carnage as Pakistan hospital bomb kills 70

Pakistani bystanders react at the site after a bomb explosion at a government hospital premises in Quetta. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2016

Carnage as Pakistan hospital bomb kills 70

QUETTA, Pakistan: A suicide bomb packed with ball bearings tore through a Pakistani hospital Monday and killed at least 70 people, as witnesses described tearful staff rushing toward the smoking blast site to help the wounded.
The bomber struck a crowd of some 200 people gathered at the Civil Hospital in the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta after the fatal shooting of a senior local lawyer earlier in the day. More than 100 were wounded, officials said.
Video footage showed bodies strewn on the ground, some still smoking, among pools of blood and shattered glass as shocked survivors cried and comforted one another.
Many of the victims were clad in the black suits and ties traditionally worn by Pakistani lawyers.
An AFP journalist was about 20 meters away when the bomb went off.
“There were huge black clouds and dirt,” he said.
“I ran back to the place and saw dead bodies scattered everywhere and many injured people crying. There were pools and pools of blood around and pieces of human bodies and flesh.”
Nurses and lawyers wept as medics from inside the hospital rushed out to help dozens of injured, he said.
“People were beating their heads, crying and mourning. They were in shock and grief.”
Pervez Masi, who was injured by pieces of flying glass, said the blast was so powerful that “we didn’t know what had happened.”
“So many friends were martyred,” he said. “Whoever is doing this is not human, he is a beast and has no humanity.”
Police confirmed the attack was a suicide blast.
“The bomber had strapped some eight kilograms (18 pounds) of explosives packed with ball bearings and shrapnel on his body,” bomb disposal unit chief Abdul Razzaq told AFP.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either the blast or the shooting of the lawyer. But militant groups in the province routinely target security forces and government installations.
Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has major oil and gas resources but is afflicted by Islamist militancy, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and a separatist insurgency.
“The death toll has risen to 70 and there are 112 injured,” the head of the provincial health department, Dr. Masood Nausherwani, told reporters.
Officials said mobile phone jammers had been activated around hospitals in the area — a regular precaution after an attack — making it hard to contact officers on the ground to get updated information.

Victims include mourners
The crowd, mainly lawyers and journalists, had gone to the hospital after the death of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association in a shooting earlier Monday, said provincial home secretary Akbar Harifal.
Bilal Anwar Kasi was targeted by two unidentified gunmen as he left his home for work.
The blast is the second deadliest in Pakistan so far this year, after a bombing in a crowded park in Lahore over Easter killed 75.
Pakistan is grimly accustomed to atrocities after a nearly decade-long insurgency. But security had markedly improved in 2015, when the death toll from militant attacks fell to its lowest since 2007.
Balochistan remains the country’s most unstable province.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and ordered authorities to tighten security. He and the head of Pakistan’s powerful military visited Quetta to express their condolences.
Facebook activated its safety check for Quetta in the wake of the attack.
Pakistani hospitals have been targeted by militants before.
In 2010 a bomb killed 13 people outside the casualty department of a hospital in Karachi, where victims of an earlier attack were being treated as anxious relatives gathered.

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 17 min 25 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.