| Volunteers move a wounded man to an ambulance after the blast in Quetta. (AP)
Quetta, Feb. 17: Sixteen people, including a judge, were killed and 25 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a courtroom in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province.
This was the sixth suicide attack in Pakistan since January 26 and comes a day after Pakistani security agencies arrested three suspected bombers in Karachi with explosives-laden jackets, hand grenades, Kalashnikovs and pistols.
It was not immediately clear who was behind today’s bloody attack. The bombing shattered windows and damaged furniture in the district court complex and spread panic across the city.
However, Baluchistan police chief Tariq Khosa believed that the attack was carried out to cause maximum damage to government property in Quetta.
“The attack was apparently aimed at damaging government infrastructure,” Khosa said.
He did not rule out the involvement of a “foreign hand” in the attack and said security agencies would look into all aspects while investigating the incident.
Forensic experts obtained specimens of the bomber’s body for DNA tests immediately after it was found at the site of the blast.
President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz strongly condemned the attack and described it as a “heinous act against humanity”.
Musharraf ordered a high- level inquiry into the incident.
Road blocks have been set up in Islamabad, and police were stopping and questioning drivers of small cars, taxis and trucks. Foreign embassies have told their staff to limit their travel in the capital.
Officials in Quetta were unsure who carried out today’s blast. “Initially we suspect nationalist extremists, as well as Afghan Taliban could be behind the attack,” Razak Bugti, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said.
Television footage from the wrecked courthouse showed people and police walking through pools of blood, collecting belongings. Body parts and torn clothes could be seen all around.
Taliban leaders are widely believed to be operating from in and around Quetta.