A bomb tore through a Pakistan Army vehicle escorting children home from school in Quetta on Wednesday, killing at least six people, including three soldiers and a woman.
The attack, which occurred in the Shahbaz Town area of Quetta, also wounded more than 22 people, including six security personnel.
Home Secretary Akbar Husain Durrani confirmed the death toll while talking to The Express Tribune and added that the bomb was planted on a motorcycle, which was parked on the road side.
“The target was an army vehicle which was escorting a school bus carrying children of local army officers from different schools,” Quetta city police chief Hamid Shakeel told AFP.
Durrani said that the army squad was going to the military cantonment from the school when the bomb went off. He added that the area is administered by the Cantonment Board.
“The school bus children remained unhurt in the blast and have been shifted to a safer place,” he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
Talking to reporters at the blast site, Capital City Police Officer Mir Zubair confirmed that the blast was not a suicide attack and added that investigations are under way.
Witnesses said the motorbike appeared to have been parked near shops to avoid any suspicion in the Shahbaz Town neighbourhood.
“I was returning to my shop after saying prayers in a nearby mosque,” said shopkeeper Mohammad Talib, 45.
“Soon after, I heard a huge blast. There was dust and smoke. I saw an army vehicle in flames. Shards of glass were littered on the road. There was panic, people were screaming, others were fleeing the area.”
Fruit vendor Abdul Karim, 30, said the army vehicle took the same route every day after school.
Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) sources said that around 10 to 15 kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast.
Nearby shops and vehicles caught fire as a result of the blast but it was contained by the fire brigade. Around six vehicles, 14 motorcycles, eight shops, 12 houses and a nearby marriage hall were extensively damaged in the blast.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohamamd Aslam Khan Raisani condemned the attack and announced Rs1 million as compensation for the families of the deceased victims and Rs0.2 million for the injured.
The deceased were identified as Naik Itibar Khan, Sepoy Shahbaz, Mumtaz, Khurshid Begum and Mir Mohammad. The sixth body could not be identified.
The deceased and injured were shifted to the Combined Military Hospital and Civil Hospital for treatment.
Since the past week, doctors across Balochistan have boycotted their duties to register their protest against the kidnapping of a colleague.
However, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) spokesperson Dr Aftab told The Express Tribune that they opened the emergency wards at the Civil Hospital after the blast to treat an injured victim, and continued their protest later.
“The PMA has decided that they will open the emergency and casualty ward in case of any emergency like bomb blast incidents and other major disasters,” Dr Aftab said.
(With additional input from AFP)