QUETTA: At least 17 people, two women and four children among them, burned to death and over 45 were injured in a powerful explosion in a carriage of a Rawalpindi-bound train at the Sibi station on Tuesday.
The outlawed United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The blast took place at a time when President Mamnoon Hussain was in Quetta on a two-day visit.
According to officials, the bomb planted in carriage number-9 of Jaffar Express went off 10 minutes after it reached Sibi and passengers were disembarking. The helpless passengers started screaming and tried in vain to escape the burning bogie.
“Twelve passengers, including two women and four children, burned to death. Their charred bodies were recovered after putting out the fire,” Sibi Range DIG Qazi Hussain Ahmed said.
“The condition of most of the injured is serious. They received serious burn injuries,” Dr Ghulam Sarwar, Medical Superintend of Divisional Hospital Sibi, said.
The critically injured passengers were shifted to the Combined Military Hospital, Quetta. At least 12 injured were brought to CMH Sibi.
Three of the passengers succumbed to their wounds in CMH Sibi and two in the divisional hospital.
An emergency was declared in all Sibi hospitals.
Sources said some security personnel travelling in the train were also injured.
“We received 12 bodies and over 40 injured,” an official at the Sibi Divisional Hospital said. The bodies were charred beyond recognition.
About 80 passengers were in the ill-fated bogie, but many of them remained safe and stepped off the train when it stopped at Sibi.
Police officer Mohammad Tahir said a preliminary investigation by the bomb disposal squad suggested that an improvised explosive device (IED) weighing 20kg had been used in the blast. It was detonated by remote control.
Soon after the blast security forces and police cordoned off the railway station and launched a rescue operation.
The officials said the bomb was apparently placed in the bogie’s washroom.
“The train reached the station 10 minutes before schedule and railway workers started supplying water to its washrooms. The explosion took place before the start of the process of security clearance by FC personnel and sniffer dogs,” they said.
Sibi Commissioner Sher Khan Bazai said the condition of 24 of the injured was critical.
The fire brigade extinguished the fire after hectic efforts.
The blaze turned the bogie into a wreck. Three other bogies were also damaged. Windowpanes of almost all bogies at the Sibi station were smashed by the blast.
The ill-fated train carrying hundreds of passengers was bound for Rawalpindi. It left Quetta at about 9am and reached Sibi at 1pm. The blast took place at about 1.10pm.
The officials said only two bodies could be identified. Fifteen bodies were beyond recognition. Their samples would be sent to laboratory for DNA test and determination of their identities.
CONDEMNATION: Railways Minister Saad Rafiq condemned the blast and said a woman might have been used to plant the IED in the train. “There are no arrangements at railway stations to check women passengers,” he said, adding that the government would take all measures to ensure safety of passengers.
United Baloch Army spokesman Mureed Baloch told reporters in Quetta over phone from an unspecified place that his organisation had carried out the attack in revenge for security forces’ operation in Kalat, Turbat, Panjgur, Mastung and many other areas of Balochistan.
The Balochistan chief minister ordered an investigation into the tragedy. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, he said. He directed the authorities concerned to provide quality medical treatment to the injured.
Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said the provincial government would continue its crackdown on terrorists.
Our Staff Reporter adds from Lahore: Railways police constituted a committee to investigate the bomb blast. Additional Inspector General Munir Ahmad Chishti left for Sibbi to supervise the probe, a spokesman for the railway police said.
The railway police also beefed up security at stations and trains.
Railway police IG Syed Ibne Husain ordered deployment of commandos at major stations and increase in the number of plainclothesmen in trains.
He said the maximum number of PR police should be deputed for the protection of key railway points and vital installations. Patrol by policemen should be regularly conducted within the area of PR police jurisdiction. Joint trolley patrol with railway officials should also be undertaken.
Pilot engines should be run ahead of the main trains in dangerous areas to avert any untoward incident, he ordered.