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World

Hospital Bombing In Pakistan Follows Prominent Lawyer's Slaying

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's what happened in a major Pakistani city today - someone shot and killed a lawyer in Quetta. Many of his colleagues gathered at the hospital to remember him, which is when a bomb exploded at that hospital killing more than 60 people. We're going to talk about this with Fahd Husain, a columnist and top editor with Express News in Lahore. Welcome to the program, sir.

FAHD HUSAIN: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: What's known about the man whose killing came first?

HUSAIN: Well, just happened this morning, and it started when a top lawyer was killed. And then when they took his body to the morgue, that's when the other attack happened, which, according to police, was a suicide bomber. Now, this clearly means that it was a targeted operation. And it was meant to inflict maximum casualties, and that it has. It has been a terrible, terrible day, a big tragedy in Pakistan at a time when a general perception was that things are improving...

INSKEEP: What does it mean - and forgive me, there's a bit of a delay on the line here, so it might be a bit awkward. But what does it mean that a lawyer, particularly, would be killed in this city that's near the border with Afghanistan in a province where there's been an insurgency over the years - there's been a lot of problems there. But what does it mean that a lawyer would be targeted?

HUSAIN: Well, in the past, there have been a number of people who have been targeted in different capacities in Quetta's history because the violence has been so wide-expressed. And there are so many different terror groups, including (unintelligible) sectarian groups, who've been targeting different people. But it's very difficult to say why this particular lawyer was killed. It could be a sectarian. It could be anything else. And it's not obvious because nobody's actually claimed responsibility for this. So it would be a guess why he in particular was targeted.

INSKEEP: One other thing - you mentioned that this is a period where it had seemed that things were becoming calmer in Pakistan. What was the mood in the country before this attack?

HUSAIN: Well, the mood has been upbeat. The last couple of years, the condition has improved dramatically. The number of terror incidents and attacks so far have come down. Terror groups are on the run. And generally, the comfort level is high. There are occasional attacks here and there. But this - an attack on this scale hasn't happened for a while. So generally, there's a sense of shock that at a time when we felt that things were getting better, the terrorists have made a comeback with this horrific attack. And I think it has damaged that perception that things were getting under control.

INSKEEP: Fahd Husain, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us this morning, appreciate it. He's a columnist and top editor with Express News in Lahore. And he's talking with us on this day when we've learned of a double attack in Pakistan. First, a lawyer was killed. And then when friends, colleagues, loved ones gathered at a hospital to remember his death, to mourn his death, what is believed to have been a suicide bomber struck. There was an explosion. And the latest information is that more than 60 people have been killed. We'll bring you more on this story as we learn it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.