QUETTA: At least 13 people, among them women and children, were killed in a powerful explosion near the residence of a local politician in Quetta, on Friday evening.
“A car packed with around 50 kilogammes of explosives exploded in front of the house of Shafiq Mengal, the son of a former federal minister Naseer Mengal, on the Abab Karam Road,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Nazir Kurd told reporters.
However, police said the Mengal family remained safe.
The banned tribal militant group, Baloch Liberation Army, reportedly claimed responsibility for, what it called, the first suicide attack by the outfit.
The entire city of Quetta was rocked by the explosion which was heard within a radius of several kilometres. A house and several cars parked nearby were gutted in the fire triggered by the blast. Windowpanes of scores of houses and shops on Arbab Karam Khan Road, Saryab Road and surrounding neighbourhoods were smashed by the impact of the blast.
Police said the majority of the dead were passers-by, making it even harder to piece together what happened.
“We are facing difficulties to know about the nature of the blast because many of the witnesses who were present at the scene have been killed,” said Kurd.
Soon after the blast, private guards hired by Shafiq Mengal opened fire and gunshots rang out at the scene for up to half an hour, according to AFP.
A photo journalist for a local news agency was wounded by the firing in the chaotic aftermath of the blast.
Until late in the night rescuers sifted through the rubbles in a desperate search for survivors and bodies of victims.
Heavy contingents of police and paramilitary Frontier Corps troops threw a security cordon around the area as rescuers shifted the casualties to the Provincial Sandeman Hospital where a state of emergency was declared.
“We have shifted 13 bodies, including a woman and two children, to hospitals,” Babul, a rescuer, told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2011.