QUETTA: At least seven policemen and a passer-by were killed and 22 others injured in a suicide blast here on Wednesday.

The victims belonging to the Rapid Response Group (RRG) of Balochistan Police were going to the city to perform their duty when a suicide bomber in a vehicle laden with explosives hit the truck carrying them in the Sariab area.

The condition of at least eight injured policemen was stated to be serious. After the suicide attack, an inspector of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) was gunned down by motorcycli­sts in the Qambrani road area.

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the responsibility for the attack. Its spokesman said: “Our man carried out the suicide attack.”

Counter-Terrorism Department inspector gunned down in targeted attack

Official sources said that a truck carrying around 30 personnel left the Police Training College at around 8am. When it reached near a railway crossing in the Darkhshan area the powerful blast occurred.

The front side of the truck caught fire and several policemen received burn injuries. Six of them died on the spot, officials said, adding that a police constable died later during treatment.

“It was a suicide blast as the bomber hit his explosives-leaden vehicle with the truck carrying RRG personnel,” Home Minister Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti said, adding that a district police squad was escorting the police truck when the explosion occurred.

Soon after the blast, police and personnel of Frontier Corps deployed at a check-post in the area rushed to the site and took the dead and the injured to the civil hospital and the Bolan Medical College Hospital Complex. Rescue workers also reached the place.

“We have received seven bodies and 22 injured,” Wasim Baig, spokesman for Provincial Sandeman Civil Hospital, told Dawn. The injured who had received burn injuries were shifted to the Bolan Medical College Hospital Complex, he added.

Health Minister Rehmat Saleh Baloch declared a state of emergency at all government hospitals in the city.

The blast was so powerful that the wreckage of the explosives-leaden vehicle was found 200 metres away from the explosion site. Only the engine and number plate of the vehicle was visible.

Railway traffic was suspended for some time and passenger trains, including Jaffar Express, Quetta Express and Bolan Mail, were stopped at the Quetta railway station.

Officials of the bomb disposal squad and police investigation personnel collected evidence from the blast site.

Initial investigation suggested that over 100kg of explosive material was used in the explosion. The body of the suicide bomber was burnt beyond recognition as only his one foot remained intact.

Home Minister Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti said the government and people of Balochistan would not abandon the fight against terrorism and continue it till elimination of all terrorists and their supporters.

“Terrorists are attacking soft targets as their backbone has been broken in the military operations conducted in different areas of the country,” he said, adding that the facilitators of this attack would be brought to justice.

In reply to a question, he said that fighting an enemy who had already decided to die was not easy. However, he said, security forces were fighting against the terrorists and their facilitators.

Acting Inspector General of Balochistan Police Ayub Qureshi said he, along with other senior police officers and investigators, visited the explosion site.

The acting IG confirmed that CTD inspector Abdul Salam Baloch was gunned down in the Qambrani road area. The deceased was travelling in his car when motorcyclists opened fire on him. He received multiple bullet injuries and died on the spot.

“It was a targeted killing,” Mr Qureshi said, adding that six bullets hit the deceased.

“A forensic team has been called from Lahore and it will reach tomorrow.”

Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri, along with Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, provincial ministers and other officials, visited the trauma centre of the civil hospital and the Combined Military Hospital and inquired after the health of the injured and directed the authorities to provide best medical treatment to them.

The deceased were identified as Manzoor Ahmed, Abdul Fateh, Shahbaz Ali, Mashooq Ali, Shah Zaman, Asghar Ali and Abdur Razaq (all police constables) and Gul Mohammad, an employee of the agriculture department.

The bodies of the seven deceased were dispatched to their native towns in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad and Sohbatpur districts after performing funeral prayers at the police lines.

The chief minister, home minister, Commander Southern Command, acting IG Police, Frontier Corps IG Major General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum and other senior officials also attended the funeral prayers.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2017