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Quetta on Monday witnessed the most dastardly act of terrorism in its history in which at least 70 people were killed and around 125 injured when an early morning explosion took place in city's Civil Hospital soon after the body of Balochistan Bar Association President Bilal Kasi was brought there, eye witnesses said.

Cameramen of Aaj News, DawnNews also among the dead

-- 70, mostly lawyers, killed and 125 injured in suicide blast at Quetta's hospital
The explosion took place when lawyers had gathered outside the Emergency Ward of the hospital where the body of the President Balochistan Bar Council Bilal Anwar Kasi had been brought for an autopsy after he was killed in a targeted attack. Officials said 8kgs of explosives were used in the blast by the suicide bomber.

Kasi was shot dead by unknown gunmen on Mannu Jan Road in Quetta when he was on his way to Balochistan High Court. The cameramen of Aaj News' Shahzad Khan and DawnNews' Mehmood Khan were also killed in the blast. The inured also included a number of media persons. Police said unknown assailants also opened fire after the blast. The bomber struck as a crowd of mostly lawyers and journalists crammed into the hospital's emergency. Reports said that majority of those killed and injured were lawyers. Among the dead is former President of Quetta Bar Association Baz Mohammad Kakar. Security forces have surrounded the area. Emergency has been declared at all hospitals of the city.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri said RAW was behind the blast and the enemies would be chased out and arrested. The Chief Minister announced a three-day mourning in the province. Strongly condemning the suicide blast at Civil Hospital here, Home Minister Balochistan Sarfraz Bugti vowed that those responsible for the attack will be brought to justice.

He further said that notice has been taken about the absence of security at lawyers' protest. Bugti said it was a pre-planned strike by terrorists as the explosion took place when the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi was brought to the civil hospital and a large number of lawyers and media persons were present outside the emergency department. The blast destroyed the emergency and casualty departments.

The injured were then shifted to Combined Military Hospital, Bolan Medical Hospital and some private hospitals. Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have also condemned the Quetta blast. Leaders from a cross section of people have condemned the bloodshed in Quetta. They include former Chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Federal Minister Mir Hasil Bizenjo, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The motive behind the attack was unclear, but several lawyers have been targeted during a recent spate of killings in Quetta which has a history of militant and separatist violence.

The latest victim, Bilal Anwar Kasi, was shot and killed while on his way to the city's main court complex, senior police official Nadeem Shah told Reuters. He was the president of Baluchistan Bar Association. The subsequent suicide attack appeared to target his mourners, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said.

"It seems it was a pre-planned attack," he said. Ali Zafar, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, told reporters in Lahore: "We (lawyers) have been targeted because we always raise our voice for people's rights and for democracy...Lawyers will not just protest this attack but also prepare a long-term plan of action." In January, a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a polio eradication centre in an attack claimed by both the Pakistani Taliban and Jundullah, another Islamist militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East.

Monday's attack was the worst in Pakistan since an Easter Day bombing ripped through a Lahore park, killing at least 72 people. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar also claimed responsibility for that atrocity. Quetta has long been regarded as a base for the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership has regularly held meetings there in the past. In May, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike while travelling to Quetta from the Pakistan-Iran border.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2016


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