An explosion targeting a police vehicle in Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city on Friday killed at least 13 people and injured around 20 others, officials said.
The explosion occurred in front of the office of the police chief in Quetta, which is capital of mineral-rich southern Balochistan, a province rife with separatist and Islamist insurgency.
‘The death toll has climbed to 13,’ Fareed Ahmed, medical superintendent at Civil Hospital said, with around 20 injured, most by shrapnel. Abdul Razzak Cheema, the city police chief, said nine policemen were among the dead.
At the hospital, worried children stood by the bloodstained cots of wounded relatives, and Pakistani soldiers visited injured colleagues.
Stunned survivors could give few details about the attack. ‘I was sitting on a chair. There was an explosion. I got injured and fell down,’ said one victim, Gulzar Ahmad.
Police said that their vehicle was targeted in the attack, but that the nature of the explosion was not yet known. ‘The blast targeted a police pick-up in front of the IG (inspector general) office. A motorcycle was also destroyed in the explosion,’ Mohammed Tariq, a senior police official said.
No group has yet claimed the attack. Pakistan has been battling Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in Balochistan, the country’s most restive province, since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, it is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
A greater push towards peace and development by Pakistani authorities has reduced the violence considerably in recent years. The push includes starting work on a massive Chinese infrastructure project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – which gives Beijing a route to the Arabian Sea through Balochistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar.