Islamabad, June 24 (Dawn): Bombs targeted civilians and security personnel in Parachinar and Quetta on Friday, leaving at least 54 people dead and over 120 injured.
Most casualties happened in Parachinar — 41 dead and about 100 wounded — because a second bomb was detonated when people gathered at the place where the first explosion had occurred to carry out the rescue work.
While no group claimed responsibility for the twin attacks in Parachinar, two outfits said they had carried out the suicide car bomb blast in Quetta — Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and, according to AFP news service, the militant Islamic State group.
About three weeks ago, security forces claimed to have conducted an operation near Mastung town of Balochistan in which 12 suspected IS men had been killed.
Eyewitnesses in Parachinar said that the first blast took place in the busy Turi Market when people were busy shopping for Eid, minutes after an Al Quds Day demonstration had concluded at some distance from the crime scene.
Muhammad Hussain, who sustained injuries in the incident, told Dawn that he was heading for his poultry shop after the conclusion of the Al Quds rally when the first blast took place. Another explosion shook the area soon after a large number of people rushed to the site to help the injured.
“I lost consciousness after the second blast and later found myself on a hospital bed,” Mr Hussain said.
Abdullah, a political administration official, said 41 people died and about 100 others suffered injuries.
However, the medical superintendent of the Parachinar agency headquarters hospital, Dr Sabir Hussain, confirmed 31 fatalities. He said that army choppers airlifted 11 seriously injured people to Peshawar and they were treating 85 others at the facility.
He said some bodies might have been taken away from the blast site.
The town, which has been caught in the cross hairs of the militant attacks for the past several years, sank into paralysis, as the communication links were broken soon after the incident.
“Better ask the hospital about death toll as we are dealing with a security situation,” a political administration official told Dawn when approached for comment.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear.
Today’s blasts were the third major such attack to hit Parachinar during the year.
The suicide car bomb in Quetta left seven policemen and a leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Nazaryati) dead as well as 24 others injured and the perpetrators carried it out in front of the Balochistan police inspector general’s office at Shuhada Chowk.
“We received 13 bodies and 20 injured people,” said Wasim Baig, spokesperson for Quetta’s Civil Hospital.
The injured include nine policemen, four army personnel, a girl and a woman, and the condition of at least five of them is said to be serious. The army men were taken to the Combined Military Hospital.
THIS combo shows volunteers working at the site of Friday’s powerful bomb explosion in Quetta and (right) residents in Parachinar carrying an injured man after twin blasts at a market.—AFP
Official sources said that a car approached the IGP’s office from Gulistan Road at around 8:30am and rammed into the buffer of sandbags around the boundary of the Central Police Office (CPO).
According to an eyewitness, the attacker initially tried to enter the CPO premises, but drove into the sandbags instead.
Assuming that the car had veered into the bags by accident, the policemen on security duty in front of the IGP’s office helped push the car towards the Shuhada Chowk.
They asked the driver to get out, but he refused. Then the bomb planted in the vehicle went off killing seven people, including four policemen, on the spot.
Following the explosion, law enforcement personnel cordoned off the area and took the deceased and those injured to Quetta Civil Hospital.
“The roads linking to Shuhada Chowk were strewn with dismembered body parts,” Muhammad Zahid, who had witnessed the attack, told Dawn, adding that some bodies were beyond identification.
Soon after the attack, officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad arrived at the site and collected evidence. They said the car had been carrying 90-95kg of explosives.
Provincial government spokesperson Anwar-ul Haq Kakar said it was likely that attacker wanted to target the IGP’s office. However, the IGP was not in his office when the bomb went off, a constable said.
Sources said that law enforcement agencies had received a threat alert for the possibility of such an attack.
There are several important government offices in the vicinity of Shuhada Chowk, including the State Bank of Pakistan, the Army’s China check post, the entry to the Quetta Cantonment, and the residence of provincial home minister. A vehicle carrying army personnel was damaged in the blast, and a captain and three soldiers were injured.
Several others vehicles were damaged and the walls of a house in the Mission Girls School collapsed and windowpanes of surrounding buildings shattered.
Home Secretary Dr Akbar Harifal told reporters that security had been tightened in the provincial capital.
Sarfaraz Ahmad, one of the injured policemen, told Dawn that he hailed from interior Punjab and did not have any immediate family members in the city. “I am a Special Branch inspector responsible for frisking people at the IG police office,” he introduced himself, adding that his family lived in the Punjab but he had a nephew in Quetta who taught at a public school.
The bodies of 12 people were handed over to their families but one body could not be identified. The deceased include: Sajid Ali, Ghani Khan, Ghulam Shabbir, Faisal Khan, Sajjad Hussain, Muhammad Amin, Sanaullah, Anwar Ali, Muhammad Naeem, Lal Khan, Muhammad Kashif and Dr Abdul Rehman of the JUI-N.
The funeral prayers of the seven policemen were later offered at Police Lines.
Kausar Ali, younger brother of Dawn Peshawar senior correspondent Zulfiqar Ali, also lost his life in the Parachinar blast. Mr Kausar, who ran his business in the market, had rushed to the blast site to help the injured after the first explosion and died in the second blast.
(The featured image at the top shows public rescuing the injured in the Quetta blast)