A powerful bomb exploded in the parking lot of the Serena Hotel in Quetta on Wednesday night, killing at least five people and wounding 12 others, officials said.
DIG Azhar Ikram said that the explosive device was apparently fitted in a vehicle, according to initial investigations. He added that a police official was among the deceased.
Security, fire and rescue officials were rushing to the hotel and no one was being allowed to go near the site of the blast, which took place at around 10:15pm.
According to the bomb disposal squad, between 80kg to 90kg of explosive material was used. The team added that ball bearings and C4 explosive material was used in the blast.
Addressing a press conference some time after the incident, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said that there was a wave of terrorism in the region. "Our own people are involved in these acts of terrorism," he said, adding that there were no threat alerts before the attack.
Addressing media reports about the Chinese ambassador being the apparent target of the attack, Langove said that the ambassador was not present at the hotel when the explosion occurred.
"I have just met the Chinese ambassador and he is in high spirits," he said, adding that the investigation will ascertain the target.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said the incident was being investigated from all angles. "Those involved will not be able to escape the grip of the law," he tweeted.
According to The Associated Press, Shahwani called the bombing an act of terrorism without elaborating. “Enemies of Pakistan are behind today’s attack,” he said.
Earlier, Quetta Deputy Commissioner Aurangzeb Badini had confirmed on Twitter that four people had died and a dozen injured in the explosion.
Quetta Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Arbab Kamran Kasi had also confirmed the four casualties, saying two people were in critical condition.
Balochistan Inspector General of Police Tahir Rai told Dawn.com that the explosion occurred in the parking lot of Serena Hotel.
He added that the hotel premises had been cordoned off and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) had been deployed to investigate the incident.
"The Quetta Serena Hotel is the only four-star deluxe hotel in the city of Quetta," according to the hotel's website. It is located on the Shahrah-e-Zarghun Road.
Footage shared from the scene showed burning cars, with huge flames and plumes of smoke rising into the sky.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the incident, calling it a "cowardly terrorist attack".
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of innocent lives in the condemnable and cowardly terrorist attack in Quetta. Our nation has made great sacrifices in defeating terrorism and we will not allow this scourge to rise again. We remain alert to all internal & external threats," he said.
The attack was also condemned by China, the country's Foreign Office spokesperson said on Twitter.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also condemned the "barbaric attack". "My prayers for the martyred, injured and their families in Quetta. Try as they may, our resolve for peace will not be shaken," he said.
In a tweet, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan said he "strongly condemn[ed]" the explosion.
Badini said the casualties of the blast had been shifted to hospital. "[The] situation is under control, people are requested to avoid rumours and don’t create panic," he tweeted.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the interior ministry was in close contact with the Balochistan government and that initial investigations were underway. "The government will issue a statement as soon as the nature of the blast and losses are determined," he added.
Senator Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti also condemned the attack, saying "Terrorists have once again demonstrated that they [do] not have the decency to respect the sanctity of even the holy month of Ramzan."
He urged the government to "ruthlessly chase down the monsters behind today's terror attack. An appropriate response is a necessity. Our security forces have the capability and capacity to give a befitting response."
The incident comes a week after 12 people were injured in an explosion during a football tournament being held at a ground in Allahbad Town located in Balochistan's industrial town of Hub.
The tournament was dedicated to police martyrs. "The explosion occurred while the final match was being played," Lasbela SSP Tariq Ilahi had said.
There have been deadly explosions and attacks at other luxury hotels in the country in the past as well.
In May 2019, at least five people were killed and several injured in a gun-and-bomb attack targeting the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar. It was claimed by the banned Balochistan Liberation Army.
In 2008, 60 people were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a truck packed with 600 kilogrammes of high explosives into the outer gates of the five-star Marriott hotel in Islamabad. The attack destroyed part of the hotel which was then shut down and opened a few months later surrounded by a massive, bomb-proof wall.
The following year, at least nine people were killed in a gun and suicide car bomb attack at Peshawar's five-star Pearl Continental. The blast caused widespread damage to the five-storey building. A mosque, two main halls and the lobby of the hotel were badly damaged.
There has been an uptick in violence in Balochistan, with several incidents of terrorism being reported last year.
On October 16, seven soldiers of Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan and seven security guards were martyred in an 'encounter' with a "large number of terrorists" while escorting a convoy of state-run Oil & Gas Development Company Ltd (OGDCL) on the Makran Coastal Highway in Ormara.
The convoy was on its way to Karachi from Gwadar when it came under attack.
In August last year, at least eight people, including police and FC personnel, were injured in a blast in Hub.
In April 2019, at least 14 people, including 11 personnel of Navy, Air Force and Coast Guards, were killed by gunmen after they were picked out with the help of their computerised national identity cards (CNICs) and offloaded from seven buses in the Buzi Pass area near Ormara.