QUETTA: A day after an attack in Kech district in which three soldiers and a teacher were martyred, about 31 people — six of them policemen — lost their lives and around 70 suffered injuries in a suicide bombing outside a polling station in Quetta on Wednesday.
Deputy Inspector General of Quetta police Abdul Razzaq Cheema survived the suicide attack but another police officer, Riaz Ahmed Nothani, was killed. The injured included policemen and voters.
Earlier in the deadliest attack on the election campaign, 149 people — including Balochistan Awami Party candidate Nawab Siraj Raisani — were martyred and 150 others were injured in a stunning suicide bombing in the Mastung area on July 13.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s suicide attack through its official propaganda agency, Amaq.
According to official sources, a large number of people had gathered in election camps set up by candidates near a polling station in Tameer-i-Nau Public College Complex at the Eastern Bypass of Quetta. The suicide bomber blew himself up when DIG Cheema reached there to inspect security measures.
Three soldiers, teacher martyred in attack on vehicles carrying election material to Buleda area of Kech district
Sources said that the suicide bomber who was riding a motorcycle tried to enter the college premises to target the polling station. But security forces stopped him and he rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying SHO Abdul Hameed Awan of Abdul Khaliq Shaheed police station, who was injured.
The people gathered in the election camps and going into the polling station fell victim to the suicide bombing.
Two children were among the deceased.
“About 20 people died on the spot,” a senior police official told Dawn.
“Initially 19 bodies and dozens of injured were brought to the hospital, 12 of whom succumbed to their injuries there,” Dr Wasim Baig, spokesman for the Provincial Civil Hospital said.
He said that 35 injured were admitted to the hospital and later 12 of them, who had received critical injuries, were shifted to Karachi.
Thirty-five others, who had received minor injuries, were discharged after treatment.
“I had left the polling station after casting my vote when the powerful explosion took place,” said a witness, Abid Ali. “I collapsed on the road and saw a large number of people lying around me and calling for help.”
An official of the bomb disposal squad, which collected evidence from the explosion site, said around 7kg explosive material was used in the blast.
Windowpanes of the educational complex and adjoining buildings and shops were smashed.
Rescue workers and a heavy contingent of personnel of law enforcement agencies shifted the bodies and the injured to the civil hospital where emergency was declared.
Polling was suspended in the polling station as voters left it due to panic caused by the blast. However, after a few hours voting resumed when more security personnel were deployed at the polling station.
Security was beefed up at all polling stations of Quetta and in and around the city after the terrorist attack.
Meanwhile, caretaker Chief Minister of Balochistan Allauddin Marri condemned the suicide attack and said that despite the incident, voters’ turnout in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan was at a record level which showed that terrorists had failed to deter people from casting their votes.
During a visit to the Election Monitoring Cell in the office of Quetta’s capital city police officer, Mr Marri expressed grief over the martyrdom of 31 people and said that they had sacrificed their lives for the country. He also praised the role of the security forces in maintaining law and order in the province.
IG of Balochistan Police Mohsin Butt and DIG Cheema briefed Mr Marri on security measures for polling stations and he chief minister expressed satisfaction over the arrangements.
Attack in Buleda
Tuesday’s attack targeted a convoy of security personal and election staff taking poll material to Buleda of Kech district.
The convoy was waylaid on reaching the rugged mountainous area close to the Iranian border. Attackers atop a mountain opened fire on the convoy causing death of four men and injuries to 13 others, an official of the Turbat administration said.
A heavy exchange of fire ensued after the security personnel returned fire. However, the attackers managed to escape.
The injured included nine security men and four civilians. More troops rushed to the site and shifted the bodies and the injured to hospital.
The deceased were identified as Sepoys Muhammad Akmal, Jahanzeb and Muhammad Imran, while the fourth victim was a schoolteacher, Saifullah, who too was going to Buleda for election duty.
No one has claimed the responsibility of the attack.
Behram Baloch from Gwadar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018