A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed on Monday at least 50 people and wounded dozens more in an attack that struck a gathering of mourners on the grounds of a government-run hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said.
Witnesses described horrifying scenes of bodies being scattered about and the wounded screaming out and crying for help. Terrified people were fleeing through debris as smoke filled the hospital corridors. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
The bomber struck as more than 100 mourners, mostly lawyers and journalists, crowded into the emergency department to accompany the body of a prominent lawyer Bilal Kasi, who had been shot and killed in the city earlier in the day, Faridullah, a journalist who was among the wounded, told Reuters.
Kasi, who was the president of Baluchistan Bar Association, was shot and killed by gunmen earlier on Monday as he was on his way to his office. The lawyers later gathered at the Quetta Civil Hospital to express their grief.
“It was a suicide attack,” said Zahoor Ahmed Afridi, a senior police officer. Afridi said the attacker hit shortly after Kasi’s body was brought in and that it seemed the two events were connected.
Sarfaraz Bugti, the provincial home minister, said at least 50 people were killed, and more than that number were wounded, as the casualty toll spiked from initial estimates.
“There are many wounded, so the death toll could rise,” said Rehmat Saleh Baloch, the provincial health minister.
Police cordoned off the hospital following the blast.
Facebook has activated its safety check feature for Quetta, allowing users to mark themselves or others as being safe.
Aside from a long-running separatist insurgency, and sectarian tensions, Baluchistan also suffers from rising crime.
Quetta and the rest of Baluchistan province have 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 here.
In May, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a U.S. drone strike while travelling to Quetta from the Pakistan-Iran border.