QUETTA: Pakistan’s prime minister called for security forces to “decimate” terrorists after a Taleban suicide bomb tore through a Pakistani hospital yesterday, killing at least 70 people. The bomber struck a crowd of some 200 gathered at the Civil Hospital in the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta after the fatal shooting of a senior local lawyer earlier in the day. More than 100 were wounded, officials said. Video footage showed bodies strewn on the ground, some still smoking, among pools of blood and shattered glass as shocked survivors cried and comforted one another.
Many of the victims were clad in the black suits and ties traditionally worn by Pakistani lawyers. An AFP journalist was about 20 m away when the bomb went off. “There were huge black clouds and dirt,” he said. “I ran back to the place and saw dead bodies scattered everywhere and many injured people crying. There were pools and pools of blood around and pieces of human bodies and flesh.”
Nurses and lawyers wept as medics from inside the hospital rushed out to help dozens of injured, he said. “People were beating their heads, crying and mourning. They were in shock and grief,” added the journalist. Pervez Masi, who was injured by pieces of flying glass, said the blast was so powerful that “we didn’t know what had happened”. “So many friends were martyred,” he said. “Whoever is doing this is not human, he is a beast and has no humanity.”
HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah strongly condemned the terrorist attack. The Amir, in a cable to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, rejected all forms of terrorism and called upon the international community to double efforts to tackle sources of terrorism financing. The Amir extended deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wished speedy recovery for the injured. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.
A faction of the Pakistani Taleban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for both the assassination of the lawyer and the blast at the hospital. A spokesman vowed it would carry out more attacks “until the imposition of an Islamic system in Pakistan”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who flew to Quetta from the capital, Islamabad, just after the attack said “all state security institutions must respond with full might to decimate these terrorists”.
Police confirmed the attack was a suicide blast. “The bomber had strapped some eight kilograms of explosives packed with ball bearings and shrapnel on his body,” bomb disposal unit chief Abdul Razzaq told AFP. Officials said mobile phone jammers had been activated around hospitals in the area – a regular precaution after an attack – making it hard to contact officers on the ground to get updated information. The head of the provincial health department, doctor Masood Nausherwani, told reporters the death toll had risen to 70, with 112 injured.
The crowd, mainly lawyers and journalists, had gone to the hospital after the president of the Balochistan Bar Association was shot dead earlier Monday, said provincial home secretary Akbar Harifal. Bilal Anwar Kasi was targeted by two unidentified gunmen as he left his home for work. UN Secretary Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying it was “particularly appalling” that it targeted mourners at a hospital. The European Union said in a statement that there was “no justification for such acts of terrorism”.
Pakistan is grimly accustomed to atrocities after a nearly decade-long insurgency. A military operation targeting insurgents was stepped up last year and saw the death toll from militant attacks fall to its lowest since the formation in 2007 of the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But analysts have warned the group is still able to carry out major attacks. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, part of the TTP, said it was behind the deadliest attack in Pakistan so far this year, a bombing in a crowded Lahore park that killed 75 people on Easter Sunday. The group has also claimed responsibility for other suicide blasts, attacks on teams carrying out polio vaccinations and called for jihad in Myanmar.
Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has major oil and gas resources, but is afflicted by Islamist militancy, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and a separatist insurgency. Pakistani hospitals have been targeted by militants before, with a bomb killing 13 at a Karachi hospital in 2010. – Agencies