Today's Paper | March 03, 2024

Updated 29 Sep, 2023 09:53pm

At least 53 killed, scores injured in suicide blast near 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Mastung: officials

At least 53 people, including a police officer, were killed while dozens were injured in what officials believe was a suicide blast near a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Balochistan’s Mastung district on Friday.

Mastung District Headquarter Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Nisar Ahmed told Dawn.com that 16 bodies were brought to the facility while Shaheed Naqab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani Memorial Hospital CEO Dr Saeed Mirwani confirmed they received 32 bodies.

Five bodies were brought to the Civil Hospital Quetta, the facility’s spokesperson, Dr Wasim Baig, said.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Dr Mirwani said over 100 wounded persons were brought to the hospital of which those in critical condition were referred to Quetta.

Meanwhile, Dr Nisar said 20 people were receiving treatment at the Mastung DHQ.

Unverified images and videos emerging afterward depicted bloodied corpses and severed limbs strewn about as bystanders assessed the extent of the damage.

Mastung Assistant Commissioner (AC) Atta-ul-Munim told Dawn.com that the explosion took place when people were gathering for an Eid-i-Miladun Nabi procession near Madina Masjid at Alfalah Road.

“The bomber detonated himself near the vehicle of the deputy superintendent of police (DSP),” Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Munir Ahmed told Reuters, adding that the blast took place near the mosque where people were gathering for a procession to mark Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday, which is a public holiday.

The Mastung AC had identified the martyred DSP as Nawaz Gishkori. SHO Lehri also confirmed that the explosion was a “suicide blast”.

“A procession of hundreds of people came out of the Madina mosque and as it reached Al Falah road a suicide bomber targeted it,” said Mastung Deputy Commissioner Abdul Razzaq Sasoli.

No one has so far claimed responsibility; however, the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has denied its involvement.

Balochistan interim Information Minister Jan Achakzai said rescue teams had been dispatched to Mastung.

“The enemy wants to destroy religious tolerance and peace in Balochistan with foreign blessings,” Achakzai said. “The explosion is unbearable,” he said, appealing urgently for blood donors to help treat the wounded.

Later in a press conference, the minister said the death toll in the blast “is immensely unfortunate”. He revealed that a number of families had buried their loved ones without bringing them to the hospital, adding that the government had not included these people in the official death toll.

“As far as the injuries are concerned, a number of people are in critical condition and they are being moved to intensive care units and trauma centres,” Achakzai stated, adding that if their condition further deteriorated, the wounded may be air lifted to Karachi from Quetta.

Actions being taken to prevent terror incidents: Balochistan police chief

In a media talk, Balochistan Inspector General (IG) Abdul Khalique Sheikh said authorities had initiated action to prevent such incidents of terror in the future.

“Some groups were active in Mastung earlier and operations are under way to counter them,” he stated, adding that the outlawed Daesh had previously claimed responsibility for such attacks in the past.

Talking about today’s attack, he a police official sacrificed his life while attempting to stop a suicide bomber while three other personnel, including a DSP, sustained injuries in the blast.

“The aim of terrorism is to create chaos and instability in Balochistan,” he said. “Police have been ordered to take strong action against the elements involved in the bombing and those providing them shelter.”

Hand grenade defused

Between 2pm and 3pm later in the day, SHO Lehri said another loud bang was heard near the blast site for a second time.

He said it was a controlled hand grenade blast near a bus stop by Counter Terrorism Department officials who were defusing it. The official went on to say that the area was cordoned off to avoid any mishap.

‘Perpetrators don’t deserve any leniency’

Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar strongly denounced the explosion in Mastung, stating that the government was determined to root out terrorism from the country, Radio Pakistan reported.

In their separate statements, the premier and President Dr Arif Alvi expressed deep grief and sorrow over the death of people and directed the authorities concerned to provide the best possible medical treatment to the injured.

Separately, in a tweet the PM said Pakistan’s war against terrorism would not end until the last of the terrorist was eliminated.

Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti strongly condemned the blast as well and expressed his grief at the loss of lives.

Stating that “terrorists have no faith or religion”, Bugti asserted that all resources were being put to use during the rescue operation. He added that no effort would be spared in treating the injured and that terrorist elements did not deserve any concession.

Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said such cowardly terrorist acts cannot shake the nation’s resolve, state-run Radio Pakistan said.

He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to root out the menace of terrorism with the cooperation of security forces and the people.

Interim Balochistan Chief Minister Ali Mardan Domki condemned the incident and ordered an inquiry into the blast, directing authorities to submit a report in this regard at the earliest.

“The perpetrators of the destruction do not deserve any leniency,” he said. “Those who target peaceful processions will be dealt with firmly.”

CM Domki urged the people to unite against terrorism, adding that Islam was a religion of peace and “those who commit such heinous acts cannot be called Muslims”.

Expressing solidarity with the families of the martyrs, CM Domki said the best facilities should be provided to all the injured persons.

The caretaker CM also announced three days of mourning throughout the province over the tragic incident.

The information minister stated that the purpose of mourning was to express solidarity with the families of the martyrs. “National flags will remain at half-mast on government buildings during the three days of mourning.”

Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was “deeply saddened by the cowardly attack on innocent people” and that such heinous acts had “no place in our country”. “May justice be swift for those responsible,” he added.

In its condemnation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “unacceptable that the residents of Balochistan are compelled to live in constant fear amid deteriorating law and order”.

“Those responsible for this heinous attack must be brought to justice. HRCP believes, however, that hyper-securitisation will not resolve the security problem in the province,” it added.

The PTI also condemned the incident and demanded that the injured be provided with quality treatment facilities.

It further demanded that the “federal and provincial governments give up political revenge and oppression and fascism against innocent citizens”, and instead “focus on dealing with a real threat like terrorism”.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the scenes of Mastang blast were tragic and prayed for the families of the martyred.

“Human life is sacred, and the terrorists should know that we as a nation will not stand idly by as they try return us to a era of bloodshed,” he said in a social media post.

PPP leader Sherry Rehman, while condemning the incident, extended sympathy and solidarity with the grieving families and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.

She also requested PPP workers to reach hospitals in Balochistan for assistance in relief operations and blood donations.

“The growing incidence of terrorism in Mustang is a matter of concern. Strict action should be taken against the terrorists involved in the attack,” she added.

The attack was also condemned by Iran. In a statement, the neighbouring country’s spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Naseer Kan’ani, said today’s attack was a “clear example” of terrorists’ distance from the teachings of the prophet.

Kanani expressed his condolences to the government and people of Pakistan, especially the survivors of the victims, and wished the injured good health and speedy recovery.

4 Pakistan Army soldiers martyred in Zhob operation

Separately, the military’s media affairs wing said in a statement today that four Pakistan Army soldiers were martyred during an operation in Zhob — which is located at a five-hour distance from Mastung.

“On September 28, at 1745 hours, own security forces thwarted an attempt of TTP terrorists to infiltrate from Afghanistan into Pakistan near Sambaza in district Zhob close to the Pak-Afghan border,” the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

In the ensuing operation, Havildar Sattar, Lance Naik Sher Azam, Lance Naik Adnan and Sepoy Nadeem fought valiantly and embraced martyrdom, it said.

“During fire exchange, three terrorists were also sent to hell and few got injured,” the ISPR stated.

It added that the security forces of Pakistan would continue to thwart efforts of the enemies of peace and prosperity in the country.

Heightened security across country

Soon after the explosion, the Punjab police also said that its “diligent officials” were performing security duties for Friday prayers at mosques across the province.

In another post on social media site X (formerly Twitter), it said more than 46,000 policemen were deployed at “1,281 mehfils and 2,510 processions and mehfils” across Punjab.

It added that all processions and events were being monitored through the Safe City Authority security cameras, while the provincial police chief ordered the senior officers to monitor the events themselves.

Meanwhile, the Karachi police said that Additional Inspector General Khadim Husain Rind has directed the police to remain “completely on high alert” in view of the Mastung blast.

He was quoted as directing the policemen to tighten security arrangements regarding Eid-i-Miladun Nabi processions and Friday prayers across the city, as well as to monitor any unusual activities.

In a social media post, the Islamabad police said a security alert was in place in the capital city. It stated Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, the capital city police chief, had issued orders to all officers to remain alert in their respective areas.

“The security of Eid Milad-ul-Nabi processions should be made more effective,” it said, adding that the Islamabad police were always ready to deal with any possible emergency situation.

Rise in terror incidents

Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah, were injured in a blast in the same district.

A week prior to that, a Levies official was gunned down at a bus stand by unidentified men, while two others who were passing by were injured.

In May this year, unidentified attackers targeted a polio vaccination team in the Killi Sour Karez area on the outskirts of Mastung, resulting in a policeman being martyred.

In October last year, three people were killed and six others were injured in a bomb attack targeting two vehicles in the mountainous area of Qabu in Mastung.

In July 2018, at least 128 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and more than 200 were injured in a deadly suicide blast in the same district.

Additional input by Nadir Guramani

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