By: Saleem Shahid
QUETTA: As many as 81 people were killed and 121 injured in suicide and car bomb blasts in Quetta’s Alamdar Road area on Thursday night. Earlier in the afternoon, 12 people lost their lives when a bomb went off near a vehicle of the Frontier Corps at Bacha Khan Chowk.
A cameraman and a reporter of a private news channel, a computer operator of a news agency and nine police personnel, including two senior police officers, were among the dead, while 10 army and FC personnel were injured in the blasts.
A majority of the people killed in the Alamdar Road blasts belonged to the Hazara Shia community. The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the blasts. “Eighty-one people have been killed and 120 injured, including 10 army and FC personnel, in two blasts,” Hamid Shakeel, Deputy Inspector General of Police, told Dawn.
The death toll might go up because the condition of several injured people was serious, he added.
Police sources said that the first blast took place in a snooker club on Alamdar Road when people were busy playing the game. Several people were killed or injured in the blast. “A man entered the snooker club and a powerful blast took place,” they said, adding that it appeared to be a suicide attack.
Police, workers of Edhi Trust and media teams rushed to the place soon after the first blast and started taking the injured to hospital.
A second blast took place 10 minutes after the first blast outside the snooker club when a large number of people, police and rescue workers gathered there. A majority of people were killed and injured in the second blast.
Five police personnel, including a senior police officer, and three media men also lost their lives in the second blast. Reporter Saifullah Baloch and cameraman Imran Shaikh belonged to Samaa TV, while computer operator Mohammad Iqbal worked for NNI.
Some other media men, who reached the site to cover the first blast, were also injured in the second explosion. Imran Shaikh was the third Samaa cameraman to have lost his life in the line of duty. Earlier, Ejaz Ahmed Raisani and Malik Arif had been killed in bomb blasts.
Police said that an explosive-laden car parked at the roadside was used in the second explosion. Both the blasts shook the entire provincial capital. “The building which housed the snooker club was destroyed completely, while over 50 shops and nearby houses were badly damaged,” eyewitness Khalil Ahmed said.
Two rescue workers were also killed in the blast, he added. Soon after the second blast, power supply was disrupted in the area as wires snapped. “Bodies littered a large area,” another eyewitness Banaras Khan told Dawn, adding that several media men were missing. A DSNG of Geo TV was damaged in the second explosion. A cameraman received injuries while other staffers remained unhurt.
Rescue workers and security personnel faced difficulty in collecting bodies and in shifting the injured to hospital. An emergency was declared at Civil Hospital and the Combined Military Hospital. Most of the injured and bodies were brought to CMH. The condition of at least 10 of the injured was stated to be critical.
“The death toll might increase,” hospital officials expressed fears. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lashkar-i-Jhangvi told media from an unknown place that his organisation had carried out the two explosions. Capital City Police Officer Zubair Mehmood confirmed at a press conference the killing of 81 people and injuring of 121 in the two blasts.
“A doomsday scenario was at the blast site. Bodies were lying everywhere.” Mr Mehmood said that nine police officials had lost their lives. Earlier in the afternoon, at least 12 people, including an FC soldier and a child, were killed and over 60 injured in a bomb blast before the night-time carnage shook the city.
The bomb was planted close to a parked vehicle of Frontier Corps at the crowded Bacha Khan Chowk. The blast rocked the entire city several other FC men were injured in the blast, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told Dawn, adding that the condition of at least five people was serious.
Among the injured were two women and three children. Frontier Corps officials confirmed that one soldier had been killed and 10 others injured in the blast. “We have lost one soldier in the blast and another is in critical condition,” a spokesman said.
An Afghan national, who hailed from Spin-Boldak, a border district of Afghanistan, was also killed in the blast.
The banned United Baloch Army has claimed responsibility for the blast. Its spokesman Mureed Baloch told newsmen that the blast was in revenge for Mashkay, Awaran and Bolan operations launched by FC. The area where the blast took place is a populated and busy commercial junction where thousands of people come for shopping and doing business in Baldia Plaza.
“Thousands of people were busy shopping and in doing business in Baldia Plaza and in the Bacha Khan Chowk when the blast took place,” said eyewitness Mehmood Khan, who owns a shop in the area. Police sources said that the bomb planted with a time device in a bag close to the FC vehicle went off at 3.10 pm, killing at least 10 people on the spot and injuring over 60.
Police and FC personnel cordoned off the place and took the bodies and the injured to Civil Hospital, where an emergency had been declared. Two injured, including the FC soldier, died in hospital as they had received multiple wounds.
“The target of the bomb blast was the vehicle carrying FC men and a checkpost in the area,” said Capital City Police Officer Zubair Mehmood. He told reporters that it was a time device. “We have collected evidence from the site and investigation is in progress,” he said.
Bomb disposal squad personnel said that 20 to 25 kg of explosives had been used in the blast. Hospital sources said that 11 bodies and over 40 injured were brought to the Civil Hospital. Some of the injured had been shifted to CMH, Quetta. “We are trying to save lives of seriously injured people,” hospital officials said.
Most of the people killed in the blast were vendors and shopkeepers selling old clothes, rings, soup and other edible items outside Baldia Plaza. Two Naib Tehsildars, who came from the Taunsa town of Rajanpur district in Punjab, were also killed.
Eight of the 12 dead were identified as Naib Tehsildars Ghulam Sarwar Qaisrani and Inayatullah, Mazuddin, Ziaul Haq, Fazal Ahmed, Sher Ali, Akhtar Mohammad and Tamour Shah.A man selling fruits on a pushcart had reportedly seen a white bag near the FC vehicle and informed the paramilitary force’s personnel before the bomb exploded. However, he remained safe, sources said.
The FC vehicle and about a dozen other cars and motorcycles were destroyed in the blast. About two dozen shops were damaged while windowpanes of several buildings and offices in Baldia plaza were smashed. In 2004, an army truck was hit by a cycle bomb, killing 12 people, including security personnel.
In Sept 2010, a suicide bomber claimed over 30 lives during an Al Quds rally at Bacha Khan Chowk.