KARACHI: At least 75 people were killed and 115 others injured today when a Taliban suicide bomber struck mourners, mostly lawyers, gathered at a hospital in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province in one of the deadliest terror attacks in the country this year.
The bomber struck at a time when over 200 mourners had gathered at the government-run Civil Hospital in Quetta where the body of prominent lawyer Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was shot dead earlier in the day, was brought. Kasi was the president of Balochistan Bar Association.
A loud explosion was heard at the emergency department where Kasi's body was brought for an autopsy.
Gunfire followed the explosion. Police said it was a suicide attack where eight kilogrammes of explosives were used.
"No crater found at the site of the attack and it appears the bomber had the explosives strapped to his chest," a police officer said.
Bomb Disposal Squad officials also confirmed the explosion was a suicide bombing.
A spokesman for Jamaatul Aharar, a faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said that his faction "accepts responsibility" for the attack in the southwestern city of Quetta and vowed more attacks "until the imposition of an Islamic system in Pakistan".
"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks. We will release a video report on this soon," spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said in an email to media outlets.
Soon after the attack, Prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of army staff General Raheel Sharif reached the city and visited the hospital to take stock of the situation.
Doctors and rescue officials put the death toll at 75 and said the number could increase as the condition of some of the injured was very critical. They said 115 people were injured in the attack.
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said the suicide bomber had blown himself up at the entrance of the hospital as many lawyers and mourners had gathered to receive the body of slain Kasi.
"It was a well coordinated and planned suicide attack with the aim to cause maximum damage," he said.
Bugti said the impact of the explosion was so strong that scores of vehicles and motorbikes that were around the hospital were destroyed.
The dead included a cameraman for a local television channel while another cameraman and reporter of another channel were also wounded in the blast.
Barrister Ali Zafar of the Balochistan bar association said that majority of the dead or injured were lawyers.
He said the former president of Balochistan Bar Association Baz Mohammad Kakar was injured in the blast.
"There was total chaos and fear after the blast at the hospital as people were running and seeking shelter to save their lives," he said.