QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: At least 70 people were killed and over 100 others were injured when a bomb exploded inside Quetta’s Civil Hospital on Monday.
The blast, followed by firing, occurred as mourners gathered at the hospital after president of Balochistan Bar Association Advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Quetta.
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An overview of the scene of a bomb blast outside the Civil Hospital in Quetta on August 8, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Television footage from the site showed scenes of chaos, with panicked mourners fleeing through debris as smoke filled the corridors of the hospital’s emergency ward.
“The death toll has risen to 70 and there are 112 injured,” the head of the provincial health department, Dr Masood Nausherwani, told reporters.
A file photo of Balochistan Bar Association president Bilal Anwar Kasi. PHOTO: EXPRESS
A heavy contingent of Frontier Corps and police arrived and cordoned off the hospital following the blast, restricting access to the area. According to police and rescue officials, the bomb exploded rescue officials brought Kasi to the hospital.
Relatives mourn next to bodies of victims after a bomb explosion at the Civil Hospital premises in Quetta on August 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Kasi was targeted by two unidentified gunmen who opened fire on his car near Quetta’s Mengal Chowk on Mannu Jan road. The bar association president was shifted to Civil Hospital, where he succumbed to injuries.
The subsequent suicide attack appeared to target his mourners, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, a spokesperson for the Balochistan government, said. “It seems it was a pre-planned attack,” he said.
More than 50 mourners, including lawyers and journalists 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.
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An army soldier comforts a mourner after the killing of a victim in a bomb explosion at Civil Hospital in Quetta on August 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Several lawyers were reported injured in the explosion and aerial firing could still be heard near the hospital’s emergency’s ward. Meanwhile, former Balochistan Bar Association president Advocate Baz Muhammad Kakar succumbed to injuries.
According to reports, Aaj TV journalist Shehzad Ahmed was also killed in the blast, while Dawn News cameraman who was critical, also succumbed to injuries. Following the incident, emergency has been declared in hospitals across Quetta.
PM, army chief arrive in Quetta
Army chief General Raheel Sharif on Monday arrived at the Civil Hospital Quetta and inquired after the injured victims of Quetta blast.
The army chief also directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical care to those admitted at the hospital. “COAS visited Balochistan High Court and offered condolences to chief justice Balochistan and the panel of judges,” Director General Inter-Service Public Relations Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted.
“General Raheel visited Civil Hospital and expressed solidarity with the injured. Serious patients have been shifted to Combined Military Hospital,” he added.
Two Quetta blast victims have been shifted to Karachi for immediate treatment, Bajwa said, while adding that about 20 more will be shifted on a military plane to various cities.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled all prior commitments and arrived in Quetta.
The prime minister is expected to visit the injured and also hold a meeting regarding the security situation in Quetta.
The premier is accompanied by his close aides from Balochistan including, Lieutenant General (rtd) Abdul Qadir Baloch and Hasil Bazinjo.
TTP faction claims responsibility
Meanwhile, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks. We will release a video report on this soon,” spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said in an email.
The militant movement is the same that carried out the Easter Day bombing of Lahore in March that killed 72 people, many of them children, in a crowded park.
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. Quetta has also long been a stronghold of the Afghan Taliban. The motive behind Monday’s attacks, however, was unclear.
President Mamnoon, PM Nawaz strongly condemn Quetta blast
Earlier, President Mamnoon Hussain and PM Nawaz strongly condemned the blast, Radio Pakistan reported.
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Deploring the loss of precious lives in the incident, PM Nawaz directed concerned authorities to maintain utmost vigilance and beef up security for the legal fraternity and members of civil society.
The premier said, “No one will be allowed to disturb peace in the province that has been restored due to countless sacrifices of security forces, police and the people of Balochistan.”
President Mamoon and PM Nawaz directed for provision of best treatment to those injured in the attack. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also condemned the blast.
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RAW behind Quetta attack, claims Balochistan CM
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has claimed that Monday’s attack was carried out by RAW, the Indian premier spy agency.
“I have the evidence of RAW’s involvement in Quetta’s attack which I will share with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the foreign ministry,” Zehri said while speaking with the Express News.
The chief minister said he has, at times, provided evidences of Indian involvement in stoking unrest in the province. Besides ordering an inquiry the chief minister also announced three-day mourning in wake of the Quetta blast.
Commander southern command inquires after injured
Commander Southern Command Lt-Gen Amir Riaz visited the civil hospital and inquired after the injured. He also directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical facilities to those injured in the blast.
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PBC calls for nationwide strike, one week of mourning
Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Monday called for a nationwide strike on August 9 and one week of mourning after the attack which left over people, including president of Balochistan Bar Association, dead.
PBC’s vice-chairman Dr Muhammad Farogh Naseem and chairman executive committee Abdul Fayaz strongly condemned the assassination of Kasi and the blast in Civil Hospital. They appealed the lawyers to observe a country-wide strike tomorrow i.e. Tuesday August 9 and one week of morning.
“The lawyers, while observing the strike and mourning, will hold protest meetings in their bar rooms and wear black bands to condemn the tragic incident,” a statement said.
CJP condemns Quetta attack
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has strongly condemned Kasi’s assassination and the bomb blast at Civil Hospital that claimed lives of innocent lawyers and other citizens besides causing injuries to many people, a statement said.
The CJP offered his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for speedy recovery to the injured. He further hoped that the federal and provincial governments would leave no stone unturned to provide justice to the affected families.
Courtesy : Express Tribune