Suicide bombing at hospital kills 67
A suicide bomber killed at least 67 people and wounded dozens more in an attack that struck a government-run hospital in the south western city of Quetta yesterday, police and doctors said.
Witnesses described horrifying scenes of bodies scattered on the ground and the wounded screaming out for help. Hours after the attack, a breakaway faction of militant Taliban group claimed responsibility.
In a statement, Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar militant group, also said their men killed Bilal Kasi, the president of Baluchistan Bar Association, and then targeted the mourners who had gathered at the government-run Civil Hospital. The group has been behind several attacks in Pakistan in recent years. The claim could not be independently verified.
Nearly 100 lawyers had gathered at the hospital in the heart of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, after the body of Kasi, a prominent local attorney, was brought there.
Kasi was shot and killed by gunmen as he was on his way to his office. The lawyers gathered at the Quetta Civil Hospital to express their grief as is common with public figures. Kasi was among the most outspoken lawyers in the province and was popular for campaigning for improvements in the legal community.
"It was a suicide attack," said Zahoor Ahmed Afridi, a senior police officer. Afridi said the attacker struck shortly after Kasi's body was brought in.
Abdul Rehman, the director at the Civil Hospital, said the bombing killed 67 people, mostly lawyers. He said they were also treating 92 wounded in the explosion. Two journalists working for Pakistani news channels were also killed in the attack, according to Shahzada Zulfiqar, the President of the Quetta Press Club.
One of the survivors described a horrifying scene, saying there were "bodies everywhere". Waliur Rehman said he was taking his ailing father to the emergency ward when the explosion shook the building, knocking them both to the ground.
Another witness, lawyer Abdul Latif, said he arrived at the hospital to express his grief over Kasi's killing. But he said he didn't know he would "see the bodies of dozens of other lawyers" killed and wounded shortly after arriving.
Ali Zafar, the head of the country's main lawyers' association, condemned the blast as "an attack on justice". He said lawyers will observe three days of mourning and will not appear in court in solidarity with their colleagues and others killed in the attack.