As many as 115 lives were lost in one of Pakistan's bloodiest days in recent times with a series of explosions rattling two cities of the restive provinces of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one of them a major sectarian attack by a banned outfit.
Several security personnel and media persons were also killed on a bloody day which served as a grim reminder of the serious challenges being faced by the country from militants, religious extremists and separatists ahead of the upcoming general election.
In a series of attacks, terrorists targeted a security forces vehicle and a Shia-majority neighbourhood in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, and a religious congregation in the Swat Valley of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, an erstwhile stronghold of the Taliban.
Balochistan's capital city Quetta was rattled by three bomb blasts that claimed at least 93 lives. The worst of these attacks was at a snooker club where a suicide bomber blew himself up. The snooker club on Alamdar Road has two Shia prayer halls and a sizeable population of Shia Hazaras.
As media teams and security forces gathered in the area, another bomb went off, media reports said. Cameraman Imran Sheikh and reporter Saif-ur-Rehman of Samaa TV channel, two police officers and several rescue workers were among the dead.
Several reporters, cameramen and technicians of news channels were injured. Police said 81 people were killed in the two blasts and 120 injured, including 10 Army and police personnel. Quetta's city police chief, Mir Zubair while confirming the death toll at 81 in the snooker club attack, said the casualties could rise as the condition of around 50 of the injured persons was critical.
"The second blast came minutes after the first one and the death toll is at 81 with around 130 injured in these blasts," he said. Nine policemen including a DSP and SHO were also killed in the second blast as law enforcement agencies, rescue officials and media persons reached the scene. DIG investigation, Hamid Shakeel said that as a result of the two blasts the four-storey building which housed the snooker club had collapsed. He said four rescue workers of Edhi Trust had also died in the blasts.
Earlier in the day, a bomb placed under a car near Bacha Khan chowk, apparently targeting a security checkpost went off, killing 12 people including two security personal and a child and left around 30 injured. An estimated 20 kgs of explosives were used in the attack.
Police said the blast was caused by a timed explosive device planted under the security forces vehicle. The blast caused a large crater and destroyed about 10 cars. While the United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the first blast, banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the second attack.
Hours later, 22 people were killed and nearly 70 injured in an explosion at a "tablighi markaz" (preaching centre) near Mingora, the main town in Swat Valley, last evening. The blast occurred in the basement of the centre at Takhta Band Road.
Initial reports said the blast was caused by a gas cylinder but police subsequently confirmed the incident was an act of terrorism. Some reports said the attack was carried out by a teenage suicide bomber though this could not be independently confirmed. Officials at a hospital in Saidu Sharif town said the dead and injured were hit by ball bearings, which are often used in explosive devices.
They confirmed 22 deaths and said several of the injured were in a serious condition. The Swat Valley was a stronghold of the local Taliban till the army conducted an operation to flush out militants in early 2009. Most of the top Taliban commanders of the region escaped to Afghanistan. Pakistan is scheduled to go to the polls sometime in April or May.
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