Pakistan: dozens dead as bomb hits mourners at Quetta hospital

Explosion occurred as the body of Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer killed earlier in the day, arrived at hospital

Taha Siddiqui in Islamabad and agencies

Dozens of people have been killed and injured in a suicide bomb attack in the grounds of a government-run hospital in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta.

The blast happened shortly after the body of Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer who was killed in a shooting earlier in the day, was brought to the hospital. It was unclear if the two events were connected.

Nearly 100 lawyers and other people had gathered at the hospital, and witnesses described horrifying scenes of bodies being scattered about and the wounded screaming out and crying for help. The death toll had risen to 63 by 4.05pm (11.05am GMT), according to hospital director Abdul Rehman, who also said 92 wounded people were being treated.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which struck at the gates of the building housing the emergency ward. Earlier, police mistakenly said the bomb struck the hospital’s main gate.

Riaz Ahmed, a 74-year-old lawyer, had gone to the hospital with an assistant and his nephew to find out what had happened to Kasi when the blast occurred.

“I was near a wall and I fell down,” he said. “The wall protected me. My assistant and my nephew are injured and being treated. It was a miracle that I survived.

“There was chaos after the blast, with body parts lying everywhere. It is hard to recognise the victims. Many of the injured are quite critical. Most of the dead are prominent lawyers.”

Another lawyer, Jameel Ahmed, 48, said he headed for the hospital as soon as he heard that Kasi, a friend, had been shot dead.

“I heard a loud blast, then a colleague of mine called me from hospital,” he said. “I have lost so many friends in a single attack. This is horrific. Many of those who have died were with me last night. We had dinner together and now they are all dead.

“I think the terrorists planned it so – they knew that lawyers would gather in large numbers at the hospital after the killing of Kasi, and so they sent a bomber to attack.”

Local TV stations broadcast footage showing people running in panic around the hospital grounds. A Pakistani news channel reported that one of its cameramen was among the dead.

“Even in times of war, no one attacks a hospital,” said Sanaullah Zehri, the chief minister in Baluchistan province, adding that the authorities would root out terrorists.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, denounced the attack and expressed his “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives”.

He instructed local authorities in Baluchistan to maintain utmost vigilance and step up security. Sharif also asked health workers to provide the best treatment possible to those wounded in the attack.

He said no one would be allowed to disturb the peace that “countless sacrifices” by the security forces, police and the people of Baluchistan had worked so hard to restore.

Baluchistan province has long been hit by insurgency. There are several ethnic Baluch separatist groups operating in the resource-rich province, but al-Qaida and other militant groups also have a presence there.

Kasi, who had four children, had been the president of the Balochistan Bar Association since 2014 and ran his own law firm in Quetta.

Several relatives who accompanied his body to the hospital were killed in the blast. “We have lost at least eight cousins. This is a tragic time for our family,” said Zarak Khan Kasi, a cousin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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