QUETTA: An explosion near Quetta's Pishin Stop on Saturday night claimed at least 15 lives and left more than 30 others injured, said Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti.
"We can now confirm that 15 people have died in the explosion today. At least 32 others are wounded," Bugti said, adding that a rescue operation was still underway.
The deceased include officials of the security forces and civilians, said the provincial home minister.
An emergency was declared in the city following the blast, which occurred in a high-security zone near a Frontier Corps hostel.
The dead and injured were rushed to Civil Hospital Quetta.
A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Anwarul Haq Kakar, also confirmed the toll.
The nature of the explosion could not be immediately ascertained; however, witnesses said the explosion had occurred near a security forces vehicle. According to a statement issued by the military's media wing, eight security personnel were martyred in the blast. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that an on-duty security vehicle was targeted in the blast, adding that 10 security officials were also among those injured in the attack. "Incendiary explosive was used in the blast due to which nearby vehicles caught fire," the ISPR reported.
Police and other law enforcement forces rushed to the site of the incident and cordoned off the area.
Dr Wasim Baig, a spokesperson for the hospital, said that 11 bodies and 30 injured individuals were brought to the hospital. He said the hospital was staffed and equipped to deal with the emergency.
At least six of the injured are reported to be fighting for their lives.
Talking to a private news channel, the Balochistan home minister declined to comment on the nature of the blast. "Our first priority is to carry out rescue operations," Bugti said.
"It would be unfair to call the incident a security lapse," he said, adding that the terrorists "do not want the people to celebrate Independence Day".
"We are trying to provide best possible facilities to the injured people as soon as possible. Workers are also busy extinguishing the fire at the site," he said, adding that the holidays of all doctors in the city had been suspended.
The Balochistan Assembly, Quetta Law College, a private hospital and many offices are located in the vicinity where the explosion occurred. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
It may be mentioned here that Balochistan has faced a number of security challenges in recent months, with security personnel in the province often being targeted in roadside explosions.
Published in Daily Times, August 13th 2017.