COAS visits Quetta, attends funeral prayers of soldiers martyred in blast near Pishin Stop

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Quetta on Sunday, a day after a suicide bomber targetted a military truck near the Pishin bus stop killing 15 people, including 8 soldiers.

At least 40 others were wounded in the blast which took place on Saturday night. The attacker was riding a motorcycle and blew himself up as he came near the military truck. Around 25-30 kilograms of explosives were used in the suicide attack.

The COAS as well as Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal were among those who attended the funeral prayers of the martyred soldiers. The newly appointed interior minister had arrived in Quetta late Saturday night to oversee the situation.

After his visit to the injured of the Quetta blast at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Gen Bajwa was briefed about the incident at the Southern Command headquarters. The COAS reiterated that the fight against terrorism would continue until enduring peace and stability were achieved.

"There is a need to have synergy between efforts of all the state institutions to defeat terrorism in totality," he said, adding that the Pakistani nation would celebrate Independence Day to "honour the sacrifices of all 'Shuhada-e-Pakistan' [made] for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan."

High-level investigation starts

A high-level investigation team, comprising three senior police officers, has been formed to probe the deadly suicide bombing, announced Home Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti on Sunday. "Forensic experts from Punjab will take part in the investigations into the attack," he added.

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Iqbal said that the federal government would cooperate with the provincial governments and security institutions in their efforts against "the enemy".

The interior minister visited the injured of the blast at the hospitals early Sunday morning after which he held a joint press conference with Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal holds a press conference with Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri on Sunday.─DawnNews

"We all have to work together to secure the country's future," Iqbal said, adding that this was not the time for politics. "It is a time to fight terrorism."

"We will not bow down before terrorists," added Zehri.

The injured of the blast are being treated in the CMH and Civil Hospital Quetta. According to Waseem Baig, the civil hospital's spokesperson, four people had been discharged from the hospital. "The condition of seven injured is critical," said Baig.

Aftermath of the blast

Many vehicles caught on fire and window panes of near-by buildings were smashed by the impact of the blast on Saturday night.

Investigators and senior security and police officers remained at the site of the terror incident to collect evidence and probe the incident.

Hours after the attack, the area remained cordoned off and all shops, offices and markets near the spot of the explosion remained closed.

So far, no case has been registered with regard to the terror incident, a police official told Dawn.

Gen Bajwa, condemning the terrorist attack soon after it took place, had termed it an attempt to “mar Independence Day festivity” in the city and declared that “our resolve won’t succumb to any challenge”.

The Inter-Services Public Relations had confirmed late Saturday night that it was an attack on an “on duty military vehicle”, adding that the terrorists had used “incendiary explosives” due to which many vehicles in the affected area caught on fire.

Security challenges

Saturday night's attack came two weeks after a threat alert had been issued, stating that an explosive-laden vehicle had entered Quetta and a blast could occur in a crowded place or a market.

Security was already beefed up in the city in connection with the approaching Independence Day.

Last month, on July 13, four armed men riding two motorcycles ambushed the official vehicle of Superintendent of Police Mubarak Shah after he left his home in Killi Deba for his office in Quaidabad.

The SP and his three guards were killed in the attack. Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, had claimed responsibility for that attack.

Balochistan has faced a number of security challenges in recent months, with security personnel in the province often being targeted in roadside explosions.

At least 14 people ─ including seven policemen ─ lost their lives, while 19 others were injured in a suicide blast that shook Shuhada Chowk in Quetta's Gulistan Road area in June.

Another attack in June injured three security officials after an improvised explosive device targeted their vehicle in the Johan area of Kalat.

Days later, two navy sailors were martyred and at least three others were wounded when their vehicle was attacked in the Jiwani area of Gwadar district.

In May, at least 10 labourers were killed in Balochistan's Gwadar district when unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site where they were working.

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