A bomb tore through a passenger bus in downtown Quetta Monday evening, killing at least 11 people and injuring nearly two dozen more. The deadly bombing came after a brief lull in violence in Balochistan which has been plagued by Islamic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
The explosion occurred as night fell and people working in the Sariab Road neighbourhood left for their homes on the outskirts of the provincial capital. Officials said the bus was loaded with labourers.
Police Surgeon Dr Noor Baloch confirmed the casualties and said some of the 22 injured have life-threatening shrapnel wounds. Rescuers added that three of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. The injured were driven to different state-run hospitals of the city where Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch declared a state of emergency.
IGP Almish Khan told The Express Tribune that it was a timed device weighing four to five kilos. “The bomb was planted on the rooftop of the overcrowded bus,” he added.
Provincial Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said it was too early to say anything about the nature of the blast. “We suspect somebody had hid a bomb in the rear side of the bus, but there are also chances that somebody was carrying it,” he said.
Senior police official Waheed Khattak said the bomb went off as the bus was driving near a flyover on Sariab Road. “Most of the victims were sitting in the back seats,” Muhammad Idrees, who survived the blast with non-fatal injuries, told journalists from his bed at the Civil Hospital. “Luckily, I was sitting in a front seat, and survived.”
It was the last bus of the day to travel from the downtown district to the outskirts of the city. And witnesses said several passengers were sitting on the rooftop of the overcrowded bus. They added that most of the dead were those sitting on the rooftop.
The chief minister condemned the bombing which, he said, was targeted at labourers who were returning home from work. “Innocent labourers are being targeted by terrorists,” he added. “We will chase these terrorists and bring them to justice.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bomb blast but Baloch insurgent groups were blamed for similar attacks on labourers in the past.
The mineral-rich Balochistan province has long been targeted by militants, and has been the scene of several attacks against the Hazara community in previous years. Several Baloch groups have also been fighting a low-key separatist insurgency in the province. Before now, there had been a lull this year following a clampdown by security forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2015.