QUETTA - At least 23 people including several Shia pilgrims were killed in a gun and suicide attack on Pakistan-Iran border late Sunday night, Pakistani officials said.
The attack came when a bus carrying pilgrims returning from a visit to holy sites in Iran stopped at a restaurant in the Pakistani town of Taftan in the border area.
“So far we can confirm 23 people killed including several Shia pilgrims and security personnel. Seven others are injured,” Akbar Durrani, Balochistan Home Secretary, told AFP.
Durrani told a private TV channel that 10 buses carrying Shia pilgrims had entered Pakistan from Iran.
“There were explosions after the buses were parked outside the hotels where the pilgrims were going to stay over night before they commence their journey back the following day,” Durrani said, adding that the blasts were followed by intense firing. He feared the casualties will continue to rise.
Frontier Corps and Levies personnel were called in to bring the situation under control. It has been more than several months that Shia pilgrims in Mastung and other parts of Balochistan are targeted by militants.
No militant organisation has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the Assistant Commissioner, the rescue teams have been sent to the crime scene. The attack stirred a sense of fear across the area, he added.
The leaders of the Hazara community in Quetta condemned the attack and announced a three-day mourning.
Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen chief Allama Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi also strongly condemned the attack. He demanded the government to immediately provide assistance to those injured and move them to safer place.
TROOPS KILL 10 MILITANTS IN DERA BUGTI
Paramilitary forces Sunday killed more than 10 rebels in Balochistan as part of a fresh operation to quell a long-running insurgency.
The operation in Dera Bugti district’s Gandyari town, 250 kilometres southeast of the provincial capital, came just three days after troops killed 30 militants in the same area.
Officials said the town, close to the borders of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab, was the hub of a militants carrying out attacks on trains, bridges and security forces.
“We can confirm that 10 militants of the outlawed Balochistan Republican Army (BRA) have been killed in an operation in Gandyari today,” Manzoor Ahmed, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Balochistan, told AFP.
“The forces started operation against the BRA militants early in the morning after receiving information that they are hiding there,” Ahmed said.
The death toll could not be independently verified.
Three hideouts of the miscreants were also destroyed. The security forces also recovered explosives, IEDs and landmines from the possession of the miscreants.
According to FC IG, the militants were involved in attacks on gas installations and railway tracks. He vowed that operation will continue against the militants.
NATO OIL TANKER
Gunmen in Dera Murad Jamali on Sunday fired bullets at an oil tanker carrying fuel bound for NATO troops in Afghanistan, setting the vehicle and a car ablaze.
The attack highlights the continuing dangers facing the US-led coalition as it winds down operations in Afghanistan with 51,000 combat troops due to pull out of the country by the year’s end.
Sunday’s incident occurred around 200 kilometres southeast of Quetta.
“Two gunmen riding a motorcycle intercepted a NATO oil tanker in Dera Murad Jamali and fired bullets at it,” local police official Ali Gohar Lehri told AFP.
“The tanker and a car close to it caught flames,” he added.
“The driver and cleaner of the tanker and all passengers travelling in the car jumped out of their vehicles to save their lives.”
The attackers escaped the crime scene. Another police official confirmed the shooting.
“The main highway between Sindh and Balochistan remained closed for around two hours because of the burning vehicles,” Noor Muhammad Breach, a senior police official in the area, told AFP.
“Hundreds of vehicles were stuck on the highway,” he added.
Pakistan has been a key transit route for the US-led mission in landlocked Afghanistan but the delivery of supplies over the past 13 years has been far from straightforward.
Quetta blast wounds two
At least two persons suffered serious shrapnel wounds in an explosion in Sabzal Road area in Quetta on Sunday.
According to police, it was a roadside improvised explosive device, which may have been detonated by a remote control.
The emergency responders evacuated both the casualties to Bolan Medical Complex (BMC), where they were identified as Jan Muhammad and Mir Hatam.
Security personnel sealed off the blast site and launched an investigation.