A blast inside a mosque in Quetta's Satellite Town area during Friday evening prayers claimed 15 lives and left 19 people injured, Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove confirmed.
According to Quetta Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema and hospital sources, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Amanullah and the mosque's imam were among the deceased.
A senior police officer who asked not to be named told DawnNewsTV that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.
A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Liaqat Shahwani, also confirmed to AFP that a suicide bomber was to blame.
What we know so far:
- Explosion took place during Maghrib prayers
- DSP, imam among the deceased
- Police say incident was a suicide bombing
The injured and the deceased were shifted to Quetta's Civil Hospital while an emergency was imposed in all hospitals of the city.
Balochistan police chief Mohsin Hassan Butt also confirmed the death toll, telling AFP: “Nineteen people are still taking medical treatment, the condition of three to four is critical.”
Bomb disposal squad (BDS) and security personnel combed through the mosque and its surrounding vicinity for evidence and the area was cordoned off. The mosque is located in a densely populated Pashtun-majority neighbourhood.
Fida Mohammad, who was attending the Maghrib prayers, said about 60 people were present at the time of the attack on the mosque, located in Ghousabad neighbourhood.
The explosion ripped through the front row of worshippers seconds after the prayer began, he told AFP.
“It was a powerful blast, people were screaming and running here and there — many people were injured because of the stampede,” Mohammad said.
TV footage of the explosion's aftermath showed debris and shattered glass strewn on the floor at the scene.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The incident comes nearly a month after the son of DSP Amanullah, who was martyred in today's explosion, was shot dead.
DIG Cheema, while speaking to media, said that police had almost completed the investigation into Najeebullah's killing. He added that they will now ascertain whether the same group was behind both the attacks.
Meanwhile, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, tweeted that Frontier Corps personnel had reached the blast site and were carrying out a search operation along with police. “Every possible assistance be given to police and civil administration,” the tweet quoted Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as saying, adding that “those who targeted innocents in a mosque can never be true Muslim.”
'Terrorists will never be allowed to succeed'
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and regretted the loss of lives, while directing for the best possible treatment to be given to the injured. The premier also sought a report of the incident.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, while condemning the incident, said that those who targeted worshippers have no religion or tribal affiliation. “They are only terrorists and deserve the harshest punishment,” he said, adding that state enemies are once again trying to create a law and order situation in Balochistan.
The chief minister said, however, that they will not let anyone destroy the hard-earned peace that had been achieved through the sacrifices of the armed forces and citizens.
Balochistan Home Minister Langove also condemned the blast, saying that "terrorists were scared of Pakistan's development".
"Internal and external enemies are making failed efforts to create panic and unrest in the country," he said in a statement.
Langove vowed that "defeated terrorists will never be allowed to succeed". He expressed solidarity with the victims and said that no negligence will be tolerated in the medical treatment of the injured.
While talking to media, the provincial home minister said terrorists had considered the mosque to be an "easy target". He added that the government is taking stock of the security arrangements after the bombing.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to condemn the blast. "My profound condolences and sympathies are with the bereaved families of the martyrs. Prayers for early recovery of the injured," he wrote.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the blast. He expressed condolences at the loss of lives and demanded that the "planners of terrorism" in the province be brought to justice.
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman while deploring the incident called on the Balochistan government to bring its perpetrators to book after investigating the blast. His party's secretary general Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, meanwhile, said the incident showed that the provincial government had "completely failed" and demanded the Balochistan chief minister to resign.
The incident comes three days after a motorcycle parked close to a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle blew up in Quetta, leaving two people dead and another 14 injured. That blast, claimed by Hizbul Ahrar — an offshoot of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had come after a respite of some weeks in what has traditionally been a violence-prone area.
In November, at least two FC personnel were martyred and five others injured in an explosion in Quetta’s Kuchlak area. The security personnel were on routine patrol in the area when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated.
With additional reporting by Nadir Guramani, Javed Hussain and Sanaullah Khan in Islamabad.