QUETTA: A suicide bomber targeted the emergency services ward at Quetta’s Civil Hospital Monday, killing at least 70 people and leaving scores injured.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), has claimed responsibility for the bombing which occurred at the gates of the building housing the emergency ward.
“The bomber had strapped some eight kilograms of explosives packed with ball bearings and shrapnel on his body,” bomb disposal unit chief Abdul Razzaq said.
“The blast took place after a number of lawyers and some journalists had gathered at the hospital following the death of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association in a separate shooting incident this morning," said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Harifal.
What we know so far
- Loud explosion inside Quetta's Civil Hospital
- At least 70 people killed, many injured
- Attack carried out by a suicide bomber
- Blast followed killing of senior lawyer in Quetta
- CM Balochistan says RAW behind terrorism in Quetta
- Cameramen from DawnNews and Aaj TV were also killed in the explosion
The bomber struck as more than 100 mourners, mostly lawyers and journalists, crowded into the emergency department to accompany the body of Advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi, Faridullah, a journalist who was among the wounded, told Reuters.
Condemning the attack, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri told local TV channel Geo News that Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was behind terror incidents in Quetta.
The CM shared this statement with the media before initial investigations into the blast were completed, and before the nature of the blast was confirmed.
Abdul Rehman, the director at the Civil Hospital, said the bombing killed 70 people, mostly lawyers. He said they were also treating 92 wounded in the explosion.
Former president of Balochistan Bar Association Baz Mohammad Kakar was among the lawyers killed.
Journalists present at the premises also came in the line of fire and a cameraman for DawnNews, Mahmood Khan, who was severely injured in the explosion, later passed away. Shehzad Khan, a cameraman associated with Aaj TV, was killed in the blast.
An emergency was declared in hospitals across Quetta and several injured were shifted to other hospitals for treatment.
"This was a security lapse," Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said, adding that he was personally investigating the attack. He said the hospital had not received any threats in the past.
Following the blast in Quetta, Inspector General (IG) police A.D. Khawaja issued a high security alert across Sindh.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast in Quetta and expressed his “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives” in the attack.
“No one will be allowed to disturb the peace in the province that has been restored thanks to the countless sacrifices by the security forces, police and the people of Balochistan,” he said in a statement.
UN chief condemns bombing
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “terrorist bombing”, saying it was “particularly appalling” that the suicide attack targeted a group of mourners.
“The targeting of mourners at a civilian hospital makes the attack particularly appalling,” said Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq.
Ban urged the Pakistani government to do its utmost to bring those behind the attack to justice.
Lawyers have been targeted several times in the last few months in Balochistan.
A lawyer, Jahanzeb Alvi, was shot dead by unknown armed men in the Brewery road area of Quetta last week on Aug 3.
Advocate Bilal Kasi, who himself was shot dead on the morning of Monday's blast, had strongly condemned the murder of Advocate Alvi and announced two days’ boycott of courts proceedings.
The principal of University of Balochistan's law college, Barrister Amanullah Achakzai, was also shot dead by unknown assailants on Spini Road here in June.
Balochistan has been experiencing incidents of violence and targeted killings for over a decade. More than 1,400 incidents targeting the minority Shia and Hazara community have taken place in the province during the past 15 years.
The largest province of the country by area, is home to a low-level insurgency by ethnic Baloch separatists. Al Qaeda-linked and sectarian militants also operate in the region. The province shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
Facebook safety check
Social networking site Facebook activated its "safety check" feature after the blast in Quetta.
The feature allows people to mark themselves or others 'safe' in any incident or catastrophe, and let their loved ones know about their state.