Aftermath of attack on lawyers at Quetta’s civil hospital (Image, Reuters)
At least 70 people died and many others were wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a group of lawyers gathered to mourn fellow legal professional Bilal Kasi at Quetta’s Civil Hospital in Balochistan region of Pakistan on Monday. Both Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (TTP JA) claimed responsibility for the attack. Akbar Harifal, Balochistan Home Secretary stated “the blast took place after a number of lawyers and some journalists had gathered at the hospital following the death of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association in a separate shooting incident this morning.”
Graphic footage showed a courtyard full of bloodied and dismembered bodies, distraught men dressed in smart suits ran towards ambulances carrying their dying colleagues.
Dawn media highlighted, “lawyers have been targeted several times in the last few months in Balochistan”. The men were Jahanzeb Alvi, shot on August 3rd, Bilal Kasi gunned down today and Barrister Amanullah Achakzai shot in June.
“Irreparable loss to Pakistan/Balochistan. Heart-breaking. A whole generation of lawyers is no more” Quetta blast (Murtaza Ali Shah, Geo)
Waheed Jan posted the following image on Facebook,
One of my friends and activist Adv Chakar Rind has succumbed to his injuries.Allah bless the departed soul.
#Quettablast (Kiiya Baloch)
Naseem Khan Achakzai tweeted, Keeping in mind Balochistan’s literacy, killing of 70 educated activists and lawyers is a death of a society.
Journalists were also among the victims. Shehzad Ahmed of Aaj News and Mehmood Khan who worked for Dawn media succumbed to their injuries. Hamid Mir (Geo News) said he was “grieved on the loss of precious lives in Quetta blast including my friends Bilal Kasi and Baz Muhammad Kakar we need unity today.”
Lawyer Jameel Ahmed, 48, was on his way to the Quetta hospital after hearing of the death of Kasi and told the Guardian,
“I heard a loud blast, then a colleague of mine called me from hospital. I have lost so many friends in a single attack. This is horrific. Many of those who have died were with me last night. We had dinner together and now they are all dead. I think the terrorists planned it so – they knew that lawyers would gather in large numbers at the hospital after the killing of Kasi, and so they sent a bomber to attack.”
Bystanders react at the site after a bomb explosion at Civil Hospital premises in Quetta on August 8, 2016. (Image AFP)
Omar Khalid Khorassani (Founded TTP)
Pakistan Taliban Jamaat -ul-Ahrar (TTPJA) claim of responsibility (sent to media from spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan)
“Today in the morning in the provincial capital of Balochistan the mujahideen of Jamat ul Ahrar first targeted President Bar Association Bilal Anwer Kassi and sent him to hell after that when the lawyers were processing the killing, a fidai attack was launched on them. We were successful in killing many lawyers and government employees and there were many casualties and many wounded. We the TTP JA take responsibility for this attack with this aim and ambition that we will keep doing such attacks until the imposition of an Islamic system in Pakistan and we will share video soon as well.”
Tehreek -e-Taliban Jamaat -ul-Ahrar
The group had earlier claimed responsibility for an attack on a children’s park in Lahore in March, see following link,
“Pakistan: (Taliban) TTP JA hardens stance killing Muslim and Christian families in Lahore blast near children’s play area”
Ball bearings were found in the March attack and were used in explosives today according to local news reports. Dawn reported,”the bomber (at Quetta) had strapped some eight kilograms of explosives packed with ball bearings and shrapnel on his body,” according to bomb disposal unit chief Abdul Razzaq.
Amaq the news agency linked to IS also released a statement according to Al Jazeera.
The statement read,
“A martyr from the Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] detonated his explosive belt at a gathering of justice ministry employees and Pakistani policemen in the city of Quetta.”
Syed Anser Abbas tweeted, that the blast “was reminiscent of DI Khan hospital blast on 19th August 2008 in which our 21 family members were killed, 50 injured and I became both arms amputee.”
Balochistan is a troubled region with a number of militant groups present, some are fighting for independence from Pakistan accusing the government of monopolizing local resources such as oil and gas. There is also a long history of alleged state human rights abuses by the military with enforced disappearances, cases of torture and extra-judicial killings. The minority Shia and Hazara community also come under threat from different factions.
Many at the scene in Quetta and on social media showed anger and concern that security measures to prevent militant attacks had once again been breached.
Nawaz Sharif expressed, “deep grief and anguish over the loss of precious human lives” and later visited the wounded in hospital.
Imran Khan, chairman of opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said, “condemnable cowardly terrorists strike Quetta targeting bar president then civil hospital. Even in war hospitals not deliberately targeted.”
The White House issued the following statement condemning the attack,
According to Sputnik, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered assistance to Pakistan in the fight against terrorism”. He said, “we decisively condemn this cynical, inhumane crime… I’d like to reiterate that the Russian side is ready to bolster cooperation with Pakistani partners in the fight against terrorism.”
“Pakistan: Talking to Taliban on new splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and how it came into being!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.