QUETTA: A powerful bomb tore through a police patrol van at a busy roundabout in Quetta Tuesday evening, killing at least five people – among them two policemen.
Thirty-two people – including Additional SHO Shafaat Ali – were also wounded in the attack targeting the police vehicle parked outside the City Police Station at Bacha Khan Chowk, according to DIG Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema.
“The bomb went off as soon as SHO Shaffat got down from the vehicle,” DIG Cheema told media persons at the crime scene.
He said it was too early to confirm whether it was a suicide attack or a remotely triggered device.
Officials from Bomb Disposal Squad and Counter-Terrorism Department have gathered forensic evidence from the site to determine the nature of the blast, he added. “Until then, the crime scene would remain off-limit to the media.”
A contingent of law enforcement agencies threw a security cordon around the area as rescuers evacuated the casualties.
DIG Cheema confirmed five fatalities: two policemen and three civilian passers-by. He said women and children are among the injured who have been driven to the Civil Hospital.
Additional SHO Shaffat was shifted to Quetta’s Trauma Centre, where medics said his condition was critical.
The powerful explosion shattered the windows of buildings in the neighbourhood. The Express Tribune reporter saw blood and debris scattered at the scene where the targeted police vehicle stood with its front side blown off.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in the capital city of Balochistan which has been wrecked by ethnic, sectarian and separatist violence for more than a decade now.
Government and military officials have repeatedly blamed hostile agencies – India’s RAW in particular – for stoking terrorism in the province, which is at the centre of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The March 2016 arrest of a serving Indian navy commander, Kulbhushan Jadhav, and his subsequent confession about India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan lends further credence to the Pakistani claims.
Home Minister Mir Zia Langove said the government would not be cowed down by such cowardly attacks and that the mission to purge the province of the menace of terrorism would continue till the elimination of last terrorist.
When asked, he said the Safe City Project has become imperative for the security of the provincial capital. “The fencing of Pak-Afghan border would also deny terrorists ease of movement,” he added.
Provincial Governor Justice (retd) Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan and his cabinet condemned the blast and expressed their grief and sorrow over the human losses.
The cabinet, which was in session at the time, vowed to bring terrorists and their facilitators to justice. It reiterated that such cowardly attacks would not weaken the government resolve to rid the province of terrorism.
The cabinet paid rich tributes to the security forces for their sacrifices for the restoration of peace in the province. The cabinet also offered condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for the early recovery of the injured.