14 killed, 40 hurt in Quetta blast
QUETTA A BOMB attack killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 40 others outside a Pakistani madrasa in the troubled southwestern city of Quetta on Thursday, police said.
The bomb was detonated outside the gates of the Sunni Muslim seminary as a degree ceremony for students was being held inside, police told reporters.
It was the deadliest attack in the city since a car bomb killed 15 people last December.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the city suffers from Islamist attacks, sectarian violence between the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim sects and a separatist insurgency.
Doctor Mohammad Haider at the state-run Civil Hospital said three boys and five men were killed. He said the children were aged seven, nine and 14. Police official Hamid Shakeel confirmed the death toll and said that more than 20 people were wounded. “It was a remote-controlled bomb,” he told AFP.
Haji Khudai Nazar, 40, who was wounded in the abdomen, told AFP that he had come to attend the function as a guest.
“I came with two friends to attend the event. As soon as we got out of the car, there was a huge blast. Dust covered the whole area. People were crying. I don’t know what happened afterwards — I fell unconscious,” he said.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.
Baluch rebels rose up in the province in 2004, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from oil, gas and mineral resources in the region.
It is one of the most deprived regions of Pakistan despite its wealth in resources, and human rights activists have heavily condemned the military for summary arrests and executions in its bid to put down the separatist insurgency.
Pakistan sits on the frontline of the US-led war on Al Qaeda and since July 2007 has been gripped by a local Taliban-led insurgency, concentrated largely in the northwest.
In the last five years, attacks blamed on Islamist bombers have killed more than 5,000 people according to an AFP tally.
Its relations with the United States are in disarray and for the last six months Pakistan has imposed a blockade on NATO supplies crossing overland into Afghanistan since US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border.
On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan that the United States was running out of patience over Islamabad’s refusal to do more to eliminate safe havens for insurgents who attack US troops fighting a 10-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Panetta made the strong remarks after talks with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on the latest leg of an Asian tour that has taken him to Pakistan’s arch-rival India, but not Islamabad in a sign of dire US-Pakistan relations.
He singled out the Haqqani network, a Taliban and Al- Qaeda-linked faction that has bases in Pakistan’s lawless tribal district of North Waziristan and which has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10- year war in Afghanistan.