QUETTA, June 15: At least 25 people, including the deputy commissioner of Quetta, 14 students of a women’s university and four nurses were killed on Saturday when a bomb tore through a bus, followed by a suicide attack and a gunbattle in the Bolan Medical College hospital, where the injured students were taken for treatment.
Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad told Dawn: “We cannot tell the exact number of deceased persons at the moment, but can confirm around 25 casualties. We will be able to share the figure of the dead on Sunday morning after checking from the BMC hospital.”
Four armed assailants were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces and their two associates blew themselves up in the BMC hospital, while one attacker was captured alive. Two personnel of Frontier Corps also died in the clash.
Banned outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts on the bus carrying students of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University and in BMC hospital. Its spokesman Abu Bakar Siddique called journalists at the Quetta Press Club and said it was a revenge of last week’s operation in the Khrotababad area.
An explosive device was planted in the bus of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University and it was detonated when the bus carrying girl students was ready to leave for their homes.
Capital City Police Officer Mir Zubair Mehmood said that about 40 to 45 girl students were in the bus parked in the university premises when a powerful explosion took place, killing 11 students and injuring 22 others.
The powerful blast was heard across the city. The bus caught fire and it was destroyed completely.
Police and rescue teams took the dead and injured to the Bolan Medical College hospital complex.
Then another blast took place outside the hospital’s emergency where ambulances, which had brought the injured students there, were parked. It was followed by heavy firing by armed assailants who had taken position at first and second floors of the hospital. They took the doctors, paramedics and other people hostage.
The armed men opened fire at security forces and government officials who had reached there.
Deputy Commissioner of Quetta Abdul Mansoor Kakar, along with his guard, was killed in firing. He died on the spot, having received multiple bullet wounds in his head and chest. Assistant Commissioner Anwar Ali and two police officials suffered bullet wounds.
Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhira and other senior officials had left the hospital just about two minutes before the attack took place.
Eyewitness Nasir Ahmed said the suicide bomber blew himself up when the chief secretary and IGP were leaving the hospital.
Heavy contingents of commandoes of Frontier Corps and Anti-Terrorist Force were called in to assist police when armed assailants started gun battle.
Four FC men were killed in firing, while a captain of FC suffered injuries.
Armoured vehicles of FC and police were also moved to the hospital, while a helicopter kept vigil on the operation.
Sources said after the suicide blast outside the emergency, armed men entered the hospital and started indiscriminate fire, killing head nurse Iffat Faqir Muhammad and three trainee nurses.
“Four female nurses were killed in firing,” said Riaz Louise, the President of Balochistan Nursing Federation, announcing a three-day mourning.
The entire hospital and adjacent area presented a picture of a battleground as exchange of fire continued for over six hours. The assailants also hurled a hand-grenade at security forces that claimed lives of four FC men.
Security forces entered the hospital in armour vehicles and got a portion of the first floor cleared after a heavy gun battle in which four armed men were killed. Then security forces reached the second floor where an armed man blew him up outside the operation theatre, injuring at least five security personnel.
After clearing all floors of the hospital, security forces took doctors, nurses, patients and their relatives, government officials and journalists outside the hospitals safely.
Several critically injured people were later taken to the Combined Military Hospital.
Reports suggested that some medical staff of BMC hospital, including doctors, were missing.
Mir Jan Mohammad Buledi, a spokesman of the Balochistan chief minister, said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and expressed sorrow and grief over the killing of girl students, security personnel and officials.
He said the attackers were equipped with sophisticated weapons and ammunition.
Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai and the chief minister condemned the incident and ordered the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The President of the Pakistan Medical Association, Balochistan chapter, Dr Sultan Tareen, condemned the killing of medical staff and other people and said the PMA had called its meeting on Monday.