QUETTA, Pakistan, Aug 13, (Agencies): A powerful blast targeting a military vehicle on Saturday night killed at least 15 people and wounded 32 others in southwestern Pakistan, officials said, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
The blast occurred at a bus stop in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, and the area caught fire soon after the explosion.
A statement by the Pakistani military said the explosion targeted an on-duty vehicle and set several other vehicles on fire. “Incendiary explosive was used. As a result nearby vehicles caught fire. Fifteen people including seven civilians were martyred,” the statement said.
Provincial home minister Sarfraz Bugti and government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar confirmed the death toll and put the number of wounded at 32. The Islamic State Khorasan Province — the Middle Eastern group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — released a statement claiming the attack, according to the US-based monitoring group SITE.
A suicide motorbike bomber was behind the blast, the statement said. The local affiliate has been known to work with Pakistani militant groups in previous attacks. Minister Bugti said firefighters were still working to put out the blaze. The nature of the blast could not immediately be determined but an investigation was underway, he said.
President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of the Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa and deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif all condemned the attack. Separatist militants in Baluchistan have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich province’s resources. Taleban and other Islamist militants also operate in the province, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
A US drone strike killed Taleban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour last year in Baluchistan. The province was rocked by a series of attacks late last year that claimed over 180 lives and raised concerns about a growing militant presence, including fighters affiliated with Islamic State, which has claimed several bombings in Baluchistan.