Quetta: A suicide bomb blast at a Pakistani hospital killed at least 63 people and wounded over 50 in Quetta, the capital of the violence-plagued southwestern province of Baluchistan, on Monday, Baluchistan’s health minister said. However, other media reported higher numbers of casualties.
The death toll has risen considerably higher than indicated by initial estimates. Baluchistan’s home minister Sarfaraz Bugti initially said at least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded.
Bugti told the Dawn that “The blast occurred after a number of lawyers and some journalists had gathered at the hospital following the death of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association in a separate shooting incident early this morning.”
The explosion occurred as over 100 mourners, mostly lawyers and journalists, gathered to accompany the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi, a prominent lawyer, who was shot and killed in the city earlier on Monday, an eyewitness said. Kasi was the former president of the Balochistan Bar Association, Al Jazeera reported.
More than 50 mourners were entering the emergency department of the hospital, accompanying Kasi’s body, when the bomb went off, Faridullah, a journalist who was at the scene, told Reuters.
Al Jazeera quoted Pakistani media reports saying that “journalists were among those wounded, with at least one cameraman killed.” Dawn has since reported that two cameramen, one from Dawn and another from Aaj TV were killed in the blast.
Kasi was shot and killed early on Monday morning while on his way to the main court complex in Quetta, Geo reported.
The Inspector General of police A.D. Khawaja issued a high security alert across Sindh, the Dawn reported. Additionally, the government has declared an emergency across hospitals in the region, with injured victims being shifted to other hospitals for treatment.
Baluchistan’s chief minister Sanaullah Zheri told Geo News that, “Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was behind terror incidents in Quetta” according to a report by the Dawn. However nobody has come forward to take responsibility for the blasts and the motives for the same remain unclear.
Targeted killings have become increasingly common in Quetta, the capital of a province that has seen rising violence linked to a separatist insurgency as well as sectarian tensions and rising crime.
Bugti told Dawn that the hospital had not received any threats in the past while adding, “This was a security lapse and I am having this personally investigated.”
With inputs from Reuters.