Pakistani rescuers and security personnel gather around a burnt passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims at the site of the suicide car bomb attack in Akhtarabad, on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province on January 1, 2013. PHOTO: AFP
QUETTA: Two people were killed and 31 others injured on Wednesday as a powerful bomb blast targeted a passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims from Taftan, a town in Balochistan bordering with Iran.
Capital City police officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema confirmed that the blast, which occurred near Qambrani Road in Akhtarabad, was a suicide attack.
He told AFP the bus was carrying at least 46 pilgrims from Iran to Quetta.
“Two Shia pilgrims have died in the blast while six police men are among 31 injured people,” Cheema told Express Tribune.
Police and personnel of Anti Terrorism force were escorting the bus when it blew up.
“Two police mobiles were in front and two behind, escorting the passenger bus. Two police vehicles passed by and the car rammed into the bus causing a huge explosion,” Cheema said, quoting SHO Raz Mohammed, who was escorting the bus.
As rescue services continue, casaulties are feared to rise further.
“The passengers were coming from Iran after pilgrimage and most of them belonged to Shia sect which suggests that it is a sectarian attack,” a senior police officer said.
According to Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), around 80 kilograms explosives were used in the blast.
“Suicide bomber used ball bearings and metal pieces,” said a BDA official.
Local bomb disposal chief Commander Razzaq, known by one name, told AFP that the car had been blown up by somebody sitting in it.
Frontier Corps have cordoned off the area. The tragedy comes as the temperature in Quetta hover around five degrees Celsius.
The injured were shifted to Civil Hospital, Bolan Medical Complex teaching Hospital and Combined Military Hospital where a state of emergency was imposed. Security has been beefed up at hospitals, due to fears of a follow-up attack, a common occurrence in Quetta.
“Most of the injured have been shifted to three different state-run hospitals of Quetta,” Deputy Inspector General Mobin Ahmed said.
Doctors at Civil hospital said they received two dead bodies and ten injured, five of whom were shifted to CMH because of their critical wounds.
Eight injured people were shifted to Bolan Medical Complex.
“Death toll could rise as some of the injured are in critical condition,” a rescue worker told Express Tribune.
Balochistan is rife with militancy, sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims, and a regional insurgency waged by separatists.
MWM announces 3-day mourning
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif have strongly condemned the bomb blast, as have MQM chief Altaf Hussain and ANP leader Asfandyar Wali.
The Shia political party Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen has announced a three-day period of mourning over the incident. MWM leader Allama Nasir Abbas Jaffri said any kind of progress was impossible if the perpetrators behind such terror attacks were never caught.
As condemnations poured in from all directions, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hasan termed it condemnable to target a passenger bus.
Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch ordered that the victims be extended every possible assistance.