QUETTA: In a ghastly terrorist attack on the New Year day, at least one person was killed and 34 others — children and women among them — were injured when an explosives-laden vehicle targeted a passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims on Wednesday.

The banned militant outfit Jaish al Islam has claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had been carried out to “avenge the Ashura assault on a madressah in Rawalpindi”. Most of the victims belong to Dera Ismail Khan and Kohat and were returning from Iran after visiting holy sites.

An explosives-laden vehicle rammed the bus, which was carrying 45 pilgrims and coming to Quetta from Iran, on Qambrani road in Akhtarabad, on the outskirts of the town, CCPO Abdul Razaq Cheema told reporters.

After the explosion the bus caught fire and was completely gutted. Fire fighters rushed to the site and put off the blaze after a battle lasting several hours.

The powerful blast rocked the locality and was followed by shooting by gunmen for some time.

Splinters of the exploding vehicle hit another vehicle in which Anti-Terrorist Force personnel were escorting the bus. Six personnel of the force were injured.

Eight women and five children were among the wounded pilgrims. Volunteers, aided by police and Frontier Corps personnel, launched a rescue operation, taking the dead and the injured to the Bolan Medical College Hospital.

“Initially, we received the body of an unidentified man and more than 20 injured,” doctors at the BMCH said, adding that most of the injured had been referred to the Combine Military Hospital (CMH).

Thirty one of the injured were admitted to the CMH and three were under treatment in the BMCH.

“Several victims have received burn injuries,” hospital sources said, adding that the condition of at least five of them was critical.

“Police have found legs and other parts of the body of the suicide bomber at the place of the blast,” DIG (investigation) Syed Mobin Ahmed said.

“Explosives weighing 80 to 100 kilogram were used in the blast,” a bomb disposal expert said after examining the site.

Calling from an unspecified place on satellite phone, Jaish al Islam spokesman Ghazi Haq Nawaz told reporters that Ali Hasan, a member of the militant outfit, had carried out the suicide attack. “The bombing was in revenge for the Rawalpindi attack and an (alleged) incident of desecration Holy Quran in Quetta,” he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti condemned the attack and directed security forces to arrest the culprits.

Dr Malik Baloch said that the provincial government would bear expenses of treatment of the injured.

The Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen, Shia Conference and Hazara Democratic Party have announced a three-day morning and called for a shutter-down strike on Thursday.

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