Quetta (Pakistan) – A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polio vaccination centre in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people, officials said, in a Taliban-claimed attack.
The victims, mainly policemen, had been gathering outside the centre to accompany polio workers on the third day of a vaccination campaign which has been frequently targeted by Taliban and other Islamist militant groups in Pakistan.
Quetta is the capital of the restive Balochistan province, which is also home to a separatist insurgency that has been raging since 2004.
“There are 15 dead, including 12 police, one paramilitary, and two civilians,” a local police official told AFP.
Sarfraz Bugti, Balochistan home minister added: “So far 15 people have been injured in the blast, seven of whom are in critical condition.”
An AFP reporter at the site saw three burned out vehicles that had been blown up in the explosion, while human remains lay strewn across the area, along with items of clothing including the caps and shoes of policemen.
Some officials had begun to gather evidence from the scene while others were collecting body parts.
Eye-witness Shabir Ahmed, a 32-year-old police constable, told AFP he had been deployed to protect a polio vaccination team that was due to leave for various neighbourhoods of Quetta at 10 am.
“Suddenly there was a loud bang and I fell to the ground, I could not see anything, there was dust everywhere,” he said.
“Then I heard people screaming and sirens of ambulances,” he continued, adding he had received shrapnel wounds to his stomach, hands, legs and feet.
Anwar ul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the provincial government, vowed the polio immunisation drive would continue.
We won’t allow the nefarious designs of the terrorists to succeed, we will eliminate polio,” he said.
The attack was later claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging an insurgency against the government since 2007.
“We accept the responsibility of attack on security forces in Quetta,” a statement on their Facebook page said.
– ‘Conspiracy against Muslims’ –
Pakistan is one of only two countries where polio, a crippling childhood disease, remains endemic. Attempts to eradicate it have been badly hit by militant attacks on immunisation teams that have claimed nearly 80 lives since December 2012.
Islamist groups including the Taliban say the polio vaccination drive is a front for espionage or a conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.
In 2014 the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan soared to 306, the highest in 14 years, falling to 52 in 2015.
The most recent attack came in November last year, when unknown gunmen shot and killed the head of an immunisation programme in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district of Swabi.
Islamist opposition to all forms of inoculation mounted after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
The terror chief was killed during a US special forces raid in 2011.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but most impoverished province, is also home to a raging insurgency that has claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers and militants since it re-ignited in 2004, with rebels often attacking government installations and personnel.
The province’s roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
US President Donald Trump Photo: REUTERS WASHINGTON: S President Donald Trump sa [ ... ]
Two boys, part of a group of Hungarians visiting a mosque to learn about the Muslim [ ... ]
A photograph taken on November 5, 2015, shows volunteers of a cow protection vigilan [ ... ]
The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. PHOTO: [ ... ]
PHOTO: AFP The divisional commander and nephew of the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, w [ ... ]
Page also said that he had proposed in May 2016 that Donald Trump travel to Russia t [ ... ]
An investor gestures as he monitors a screen displaying stock information in Riyadh, [ ... ]
PHOTO: EXPRESS MUZAFFARABAD: ommander 10 Corps Lieutenant General Nadeem Raza, o [ ... ]
US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in shake hands duri [ ... ]
People are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the picture of various curr [ ... ]
All depts given 10 days to submit their list of vacant posts. PHOTO: FILE ISLAMAB [ ... ]
PHOTO: PPI KARACHI: n accountability court reserved judgment on Monday on an app [ ... ]
Officer had been beaten up by protesters in 2014, was later suspended by govt. PHOTO [ ... ]
ISLAMABAD: t seems like multiple marches on the capital and massive protests thr [ ... ]
PML-N leadership continues to woo PPP support. PHOTO: ONLINE ISLAMABAD: t a [ ... ]
Child receives polio vaccination drops PHOTO: REUTERS LAHORE: unjab Primary and [ ... ]
Three-day conference on Iqbal commences. PHOTO: FILE ISLAMABAD: llama Iqbal rais [ ... ]
Foreign Minister Ahsan Iqbal. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE PESHAWAR: akistan’s economic [ ... ]
Last week, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan approved the elevation of eight judg [ ... ]
Bilawal Abro says the authority is working to eradicate adulteration and ensure food [ ... ]
EXPRESS NEWS SCREEN GRAB ATTOCK: akistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Kh [ ... ]
Just hours after the death of Mansour bin Muqrin, the son of former Saudi crown pr [ ... ]
Two men open fire on their wives and alleged paramours in separate incidents. PHOTO: [ ... ]
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani greets Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Tehr [ ... ]
Three persons have also been apprehended along with the vehicle where the arms and a [ ... ]
Hira Akbar. PHOTO: Express SWAT: ourteen-year-old Hira Akbar has become the sec [ ... ]
PHOTO: File Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah said [ ... ]
Traditional folk artists perform during the 274th urs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. PH [ ... ]
The two male lions at the Masai Mara and Dr Ezekiel Mutua. PHOTO COURTESY: Nairobi T [ ... ]
PHOTO: AFP MARSEILLE: arseille said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after d [ ... ]
LAHORE: t is ironical to see that the same members of the provincial assembly of [ ... ]
KARACHI: he stock market hit a roadblock again on Thursday as investors failed to carr [ ... ]
Kate was treated last month for a severe form of pregnancy sickness. PHOTO: REUTERS [ ... ]
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID I [ ... ]
North Korea, known for its florid insults, has described US President Donald Trump a [ ... ]
An Uber sign is seen in a car in New York, U.S. June 30, 2015 PHOTO: REUTERS Far-r [ ... ]
Outside the arcane world of finance reporting few will have been following the tal [ ... ]
In the first palpable sign that it is willing to accept the ineligibility of Nawaz [ ... ]
PHOTO: PPI QUETTA: nior Superintendent Police of Traffic Nazeer Kurd said on [ ... ]
Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/FILE ISLAMABAD: he National Party, an ally [ ... ]
The authority will incur up to Rs1 million in losses. PHOTO: EXPRESS ISLAMABAD: [ ... ]
PHOTO: AFP Questions regarding who earns what in cricket and who is the highest pa [ ... ]
PHOTO: FILE ISLAMABAD: he Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has cut [ ... ]
PHOTO: MQM-P Rejecting the results of the 2017 census, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pa [ ... ]
Representational image of a disabled person in a wheel chair. PHOTO: REUTERS LAHOR [ ... ]
According to the National Nutrition Survey, nearly 40 per cent of the children in S [ ... ]
PHOTO: FILE Atif Aslam’s jdar-e-Haram opened the eighth season of Coke Stu [ ... ]
That water is a critical resource for Pakistan and for all countries in the world [ ... ]
PHOTO: AFP BEIJING: hina wants Pakistan to seize the opportunity provided by CPE [ ... ]
The writer is a development anthropologist. He teaches at George Washington Universi [ ... ]
The head of the Russian foreign ministry's security and disarmament department Mikha [ ... ]
ISPR says suspects were involved in recent terror activities in Punjab. PHOTO:: EXPR [ ... ]
DPO vows fair probe of incident. PHOTO: FILE ABBOTTABAD: plastic surgeon who wa [ ... ]
Advisor to CM says they will try to resolve the issue within a week. PHOTO: FILE P [ ... ]
Iqbal Zafar Jhagra says police need to adapt to the changing scenario. PHOTO: FILE [ ... ]
KARACHI: he Sindh and federal government are embroiled in Pakistan Steel Mills’ land [ ... ]