A powerful bomb went off outside a public rally of the Awami National Party (ANP) on the outskirts of the provincial capital on Friday, killing six people and wounding over a dozen more.
The bomb was strapped to a bicycle and was detonated by remote control, a police official told The Express Tribune. The two-wheeler was parked near the site of the ANP rally.
Four people, among them vice president of Pashtun Students Federation (PSF) Malik Muhammad Qasim Kakar, were killed on the spot and another two died while being driven to a hospital.
Wazir Khan Nasir, the deputy inspector general of police (Operations Branch), confirmed the fatalities.
The bomb attack in the Khuclak area, some 20 kilometres from Quetta, came a day after the grisly discovery of seven bullet-riddled bodies of Pakhtun miners in the volatile region.
The miners, all belonging to Swat district, were kidnapped from the Degari coalfield on July 7 by fighters from the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army.
Another 18 people, including chief of the Balochistan chapter of ANP Aurangzeb Kasi and his wife Mahar were wounded – some of them critically.
Kasi’s aide Obaidullah Abid, however, gave a higher toll. “Eight ANP workers were killed and 22 others injured,” he claimed.
“The explosion was followed by heavy aerial firing which whipped up fear and panic among shoppers in a nearby market,” said the police official who spoke to The Express Tribune.
The blast took place some 15 minutes after ANP supporters had gathered at the venue for the rally, according to witnesses. They pointed out that security arrangements for the rally were not satisfactory.
According to explosives experts, the bomb weighed seven to eight kilogrammes.
Witnesses said the bicycle fitted with the explosive device was parked between two vehicles – had it not been so the death toll could have been much higher. Four vehicles parked near the bicycle were destroyed by the impact.
The casualties were ferried to Quetta’s Civil Hospital and Combined Military Hospital, where medics said four of them are in a critical condition.
As soon as news of the bombing spread, scores of ANP supporters and PSF activists gathered outside the Civil Hospital and staged noisy protests.
They later blocked Jinnah Road, Shara-e-Iqbal and Liaquat Bazaar, bringing traffic to a standstill. Some of them went berserk, breaking windscreens of vehicles, stoning shops and firing gunshots randomly into the air.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.
The ANP condemned the blast and announced three days of mourning. The party’s acting president for the province blamed the local administration for ‘inadequate’ security for the rally.
“Our party believes in the philosophy of non-violence as espoused by Bacha Khan [Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan]” Obaidullah Abid said suggesting that they would not resort to violence to avenge the killings.
Balochistan has been in the throes of a deadly tribal insurgency since 2004. The killing of popular Baloch chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006 provided further impetus to the insurgency. The insurgent groups are demanding more political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the oil, gas and mineral resources in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2012.
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