QUETTA: At least 14 people were killed and over 10 injured in an explosion near a polio centre in Quetta's Satellite Town on Wednesday, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the attack on Facebook and in an email sent to journalists.
"The blast was apparently carried out by a suicide bomber," Bugti said, speaking to media after the blast.
Thirteen of the dead are policemen while one of them is an FC official, he said.
"We will not bow down before terrorists," said Bugti, adding that the blast was an effort to disrupt peace in Balochistan.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Police Quetta Syed Imtiaz Shah said seven to eight kilogramme of explosives were used in the blast. He said most of the victims were policemen who laid down their lives to guard polio workers.
An intelligence officer who declined to be named confirmed to DawnNews that it was a suicide attack.
"Body pieces of the suicide bomber have been collected by security agencies to initiate a probe into the incident," said the official.
The casualties were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta, where an emergency has been imposed.
Dr Rasheed Jamali, a senior doctor told DawnNews that at least five critically injured victims were shifted to Combined Military Hospital Quetta for treatment.
Eyewitnesses at the site said they heard firing after a loud blast rocked the area. The glass windows of nearby buildings shattered due to intensity of the blast.
Police and rescue workers reached the site soon after the blast, while security forces have cordoned off the area. The nature of the blast is unknown as yet.
Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Sanaullah Zehri while strongly condemning the blast directed police to submit a report about the incident promptly.
"We cannot tolerate the terrorism," he said in a statement issued to press soon after the explosion.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast in Quetta.
In his statement, the premier said government is committed to stamp out extremism from the country and operation will continue till elimination of all terrorism, reported Radio Pakistan.
Polio campaign temporarily suspended
Today is the third day of a three-day anti-polio campaign which was launched in Quetta and other districts of Balochistan on Monday. The campaign in Quetta was temporarily suspended following the blast.
Dr. Saif ur Rehman, the head of the Emergency Operation Cell Balochistan said the polio campaign in Quetta was relaunched in Satellite Town and other parts of Quetta on Wednesday afternoon. It will continue for one more day.
"Such terror acts cannot deter our resolve to wipe out polio", he told DawnNews by telephone.
The campaign is to target 2.4 million children under the age of five. Over 55,000 children of Afghan refugees are to be immunised under the campaign.
Polio teams were being dispatched from the polio centre targeted today in the blast, security sources said.
Pakistan remains one of only two countries on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) list of polio-endemic countries.
Polio workers have long been targeted in the country due to rumours that the polio immunisation drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims. The rumours have made inhabitants of lesser-developed parts of the country more wary of allowing immunisation.