Destroyed vehicles at the blast site in Quetta on Thursday. (AFP)
Quetta, Jan. 10 (AP, Reuters): A series of bombings in different parts of Pakistan today killed 103 people, including 69 who died in a sectarian attack on a bustling billiard hall in the southwest city of Quetta, officials said.
The blasts punctuated one of the deadliest days in recent years in Pakistan, where the government faces a bloody insurgency by Taliban militants in the northwest and Baluch militants in the southwest.
The country is also home to many enemies of the US that Washington has frequently targeted with drone attacks. A US missile strike today killed five suspected militants in the seventh such attack in two weeks, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The billiard hall in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, was hit by twin blasts about 10 minutes apart on Thursday night, killing 69 people and wounding more 160 others, said senior police officer Hamid Shakeel.
The billiard hall was located in an area dominated by Shias, and most of the dead and wounded were from the minority sect, said another police officer, Mohammed Murtaza.
Many of the people who rushed to the scene after the first blast were hit by the second bomb, which caused the roof of the building to collapse, he said.
Police officers, journalists and rescue workers who responded to the initial explosion were also among the dead, police said.
The sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack to local journalists. One of the group’s spokespersons, Bakar Saddiq, said the first blast was carried out by a suicide bomber and the second was a bomb planted in a car and detonated by remote control.
Radical Sunni groups often target Pakistan’s Shia minority, whom they believe hold heretical views.
Earlier in the day, a bomb targeting paramilitary soldiers in a commercial area in Quetta killed 12 people and wounded more than 40, said Shakeel, the senior police officer.
The United Baluch Army, a separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack on the soldiers in calls to local journalists.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, a bomb in a Sunni mosque in the northwest city of Mingora killed 22 people and wounded more than 70, said senior police officer Akhtar Hayyat.
Many people had gathered to hear a religious leader speak in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officers at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.
“The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people,” said Dr Niaz Mohammad.
Police initially said the Swat blast was caused by an exploding gas cylinder but later police chief Akhtar Hayyat said it was a bomb. It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.
The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani army since their 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.
But the Taliban retain their ability to mount attacks in Swat and shot schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousufzai in Mingora last October.