QUETTA: A powerful car bomb killed at least 19 Shia pilgrims and injured 25 others, including four women, who were travelling in three buses in the Daringar area of Mastung district on Sunday.
Hospital sources feared that the death toll might rise, as many injured people were in critical condition. Emergency was declared in all the hospitals of Quetta.
The blast occurred in Mastung, hometown of Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani, where numerous attacks on the convoys of the pilgrims have been reported during the last couple of years.
“Nineteen bodies have been retrieved from the wreckage of a passenger bus, Deputy Commissioner Mastung Tufail Baloch told The News. The deceased belonged to Lahore, Jhang and Multan.
Officials of the Mastung administration said that three passenger buses, escorted by a Levies force, were heading to Iran from Quetta carrying 40 to 44 pilgrims in each bus. When the convoy reached the Daringar area, some 60 kilometres from Quetta, it was targeted by a powerful remote controlled car bomb.
The blast was so powerful that one of the buses was destroyed, while the other two buses were also damaged. The fire could not be extinguished in time due to the unavailability of fire fighters in Mastung.
Nineteen pilgrims were killed while 25 others were injured. Some of the victims could not be identified as their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition.
A preliminary investigation of the incident revealed that a car packed with explosives was parked in the Daringar area at Quetta-Taftan Highway. As the convoy carrying pilgrims approached the site at around 9:00am, the remote controlled explosive device went off with a big bang, said DC Mastung. However, the driver of another bus told media persons that a car hit one of the buses and the explosion took place after that.
Eyewitnesses said there was thick cloud of smoke after the explosion and people travelling in the other two buses moved towards the bus and took out some injured people and shifted them to hospital in private vehicles and Edhi ambulances. They said the body parts of the victims were scattered all over the place and the injured were crying with agony.
The injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta from where 10 of them were shifted to CMH. Moving scenes were witnessed at the spot and hospitals, when the people learnt about the blast and reached there. The district administration Mastung and Levies force officials reached the spot and cordoned off the area.
More than 70 kilograms explosive material was used in the explosion, said officials of the bomb disposal squad.
On the same night, the bodies of the deceased were sent to Lahore on a C-130 aircraft.
Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani strongly condemned the explosion and expressed deep grief over the loss of human lives. The chief minister observed that it is worst kind of terrorism and directed the high-ups of the police, law enforcement agencies and administration to mobilise all resources for apprehending the elements involved in the explosion.
The Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen and Quetta Yekjehti Council also strongly condemned the Mastung blast and demanded the government to provide security to the general public or step down in the larger interests of the province.
Agencies add: Jaishul Islam has claimed responsibility for the Mastung blast.
The Jaishul Islam spokesman Ghazi Haq Nawaz said on telephone from an unknown location that the attack on pilgrims’ buses was a response to the attack on the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat Ulema in Quetta and Karachi.
The spokesman warned the Mastung administration to stay away from the Shia sect otherwise they would be their next target.
He also warned all CD shop owners in Quetta to set all CDs on fire otherwise they would have to face the consequences.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf condemned the terrorist attack in Mastung. In a statement, the prime minister prayed that Almighty Allah rest the departed souls in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved families to bear the loss with equanimity.
Quaid-e-Millat Jafariya Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi in a statement said the Mastung incident is a slap on the face of the incapable rulers.
He said all the affected areas including Balochistan, Karachi and Peshawar should be handed over to the army. He said there is a need to carry out an operation against terrorists.