QUETTA, Aug 8: Violent extremism took a more deadly turn on Thursday when a lone suicide bomber penetrated through a strict security cordon placed around the Police Lines (a residential compound meant for the city police) and blew himself up, causing one of the worst tragedies for the Balochistan police force.
At least 30 members of the police force, including a DIG and SP, were killed and 60 others injured. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that the police officials targeted had gathered near the mosque inside the high-security area for namaz-i-janaza of a Quetta SHO who had been gunned down in the city earlier in the day.
In late-night development, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.
The inspector general of the provincial police confirmed the death of 30 people said at a news conference that 21 of those killed had been identified, and all of them were members of the Balochistan police.
The IGP also declared that despite the dastardly attack the police force in Balochistan would continue with its mission to nab or eliminate the militants from Quetta and the rest of the province.
Officials later said most of the others who were killed or injured in the audacious attack were also linked to the police force.
The incident occurred when the entire place was sprawling with members of Quetta police. With dozens of heavily armed security personnel guarding the place, hundreds of police officials had started to line up near the mosque for the funeral prayers.
The mourners were waiting for the arrival of the IGP when the powerful explosion sent a wave of shock and panic in and around the place. Those near the entrance of the compound bore the brunt as the hitherto unidentified bomber detonated the explosives wrapped around his body close to the place where senior officials were standing. DIG (Operations) Fayyaz Sumbal and dozens of other officers were directly hit by the pellets and other metal objects that were part of the explosive device.
“It was a suicide attack,” police officials said. The head of the bomber was found about 200 yards away from the blast site. The powerful explosion was heard in the entire city.
Balochistan IG Mushtaq Sukhira confirmed 30 deaths. “We have lost a very brave, devoted and honest police officer, Fayyaz Sumbal, and three other senior officers in the suicide attack,” he said.
Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood who also was inside the mosque, along with other officers, at the time of the blast, remained unhurt.
IG Sukhira said: “We will not bow down before the terrorists and would continue to fight them.” The police force has rendered and will continue to render sacrifices to protect the nation from terrorists. “The nation should unite to combat terrorism,” he told reporters at the CCPO office.
The IG had survived a bomb attack on his official residence in the red zone on May 12.
Sources said DIG Fayyaz Sumbal and other police officers and soldiers had gone to the Police Lines mosque to attend the funeral prayers of SHO City Police Station Mohibullah Davi who was killed on the airport road when he was coming to the city along with his four children for Eid shopping. His two children and a security guard were injured. According to sources, police personnel deployed there stopped the teenage bomber when he tried to enter the mosque. But the boy blew himself up when the personnel were frisking him.
“DIG Sumbal, along with other injured officers, was taken to the CMH where he succumbed to his injuries. He had suffered multiple wounds,” a senior police officer told Dawn.
The other officers who died were identified as SP Traffic Mohammad Anwar Khiliji, DSP Khaliqdad, DSP Police Lines Shamsur Rehman, Hazrat Ali, Khalid Mehmood, Muhammad Arif, Ghulam Ali, Ehsanullah, Shakeel Anwar, Ataullah, Mehmood, Ghulam Hussain, Muhammad Ali, Ajmal Tareen, Mansoor Ahmed, Syed Nadir, Aamir Munnir and Nazim Jan.
Ten victims could not be identified.
“The blast took police just before the funeral prayers,” Abdul Saboor, another senior officer, said, adding that people were lining up for prayers when the bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the mosque where a walk-through had been installed.
Charred human flesh and limbs were scattered all over the place. Weeping policemen wandered among the blood and body parts, looking for their colleagues, or sat in shock with abandoned shoes and other belongings around them.
“About eight to 10 kilograms of explosives with ball bearings and shrapnel were used in the blast,” an official of bomb disposal squad told Dawn.
“It was a major tragedy in which I lost my many colleagues,” police officer Zubair Mehmood said, adding that he was present at the site when the blast had taken place.
Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad said the death toll could rise because the condition of many of the injured was serious. He said seriously injured people could be shifted to Karachi.
IG Mushtaq Sukhira said the people involved in this act of terrorism could not be called Muslim or even human beings. “Such attacks cannot demoralise the police force,” he said. “Terrorists snatched sons from mothers and fathers, brothers from sisters and husbands from wives.”
Answering a question, he said: “We will investigate how the bomber wearing suicide jacket managed to reach the Police Lines.”
The funeral prayers of all police officers were held in the evening in the Police Lines. It was attended IG Mushtaq Sukhira and other senior officers.
Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Senior Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri and political leaders strongly condemned the suicide attack.
The chief minister expressed sympathy with the grieved families and said the elements involved in the inhuman act would be brought to justice.