Karachi : At least 55 people, mostly lawyers, were today killed and over 100 others injured when a powerful bomb ripped through a government-run hospital in Quetta in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Balochistan province, in a suspected suicide attack followed by gunfire.
The blast at Civil Hospital came hours after unidentified gunmen shot dead president of Balochistan Bar Association (BA) Advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi in the provincial capital following which lawyers had brought his body to the hospital, according to police and rescue officials.
A loud explosion was heard as lawyers and journalists had gathered at the emergency department where Kasi’s body was brought for autopsy. Most of the dead and injured are lawyers, and include police officials and journalists as well, police and eye witnesses were quoted as saying in reports.
Police said unknown men also opened fire after the blast. As many as 55 people have been killed and over 100 others are injured, Balochistan government spokesman Anwarul Haq said. The condition of about 20 of those injured is said to be serious.
It was not immediately clear if the blast and the earlier shooting were related and no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far. A journalist was among the deceased while another was critically injured, according to reports.
“This was a security lapse and I am having this personally investigated,” Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said. Panic tore through the hospital after the incident and emergency has been declared at hospitals in Quetta.
Video footage showed bodies strewn and pools of blood and shattered glass as shocked survivors cried and comforted one another. Many of the dead appeared to be wearing black suits and ties.
A heavy contingent of Frontier Corps and police arrived and cordoned off the area.
It is suspected that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, Bugti said.
Two unidentified men opened fire at Advocate Kasi’s car near Quetta’s Mengal Chowk on Manno Jan road as he left his home in the morning for work, police officials said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain strongly condemned the blast and expressed his “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives” in the attack, in which several senior lawyers were also killed.
“No one will be allowed to disturb the peace in the province that has been restored thanks to the countless sacrifices by the security forces, police and the people of Baluchistan,” Sharif said in a statement and asked authorities to maintain vigilance and beef up security in Quetta.
Soon after the incident, provincial Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri called a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation.
The provincial government has already announced three-day mourning against the incident during which Pakistan’s National Flag will remain at half mast on government buildings.
Social networking site Facebook activated its “safety check” feature after the blast in the provincial capital bordering Iran and Afghanistan.