Suicide bombing in southwest Pakistan kills 10 police officers
QUETTA, Pakistan — A motorcycle suicide bomber rammed a police truck in Pakistan’s restive southwest, killing 10 police officers and injuring 12 in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months, authorities said.
Hours later, the new militant group Tehreek-e-Jihad in a statement claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place on a bridge in Sibi district, Balochistan province.
Small Balochistan-based separatist groups and local militants have been blamed for previous such attacks.
Mahmood Notenzai, a local police chief, said officers were on routine patrol when the attack happened, initially killing nine people. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital, where one of the seriously injured officers later died, he added. Sibi is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Quetta, the provincial capital.
The force of the explosion overturned the truck, which injured others, he said. Trucks often transport troops to Pakistan.
Notenzai said the officers who were attacked were deployed last week to Sibi, where an annual cultural festival was held under tight security. An army helicopter was dispatched to evacuate the seriously injured to a hospital in Quetta, where better sanitation facilities are available.
Last year, a suicide bomber from the extremist group Islamic State targeted President Arif Alvi’s security convoy while attending the Sibi festival. Alvi was far from the site of the bombardment, which killed five soldiers. IS militants later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The festival has been celebrated for several centuries to mark the advent of summer.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the attack. In a statement, he expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and ordered health officials to provide the best medical care to injured officers. He said the attack was part of nefarious enemy plans to destabilize Pakistan and pledged to defeat terrorism.
Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo, the highest elected official in Balochistan, also denounced the attack.
“Terrorists who carry out such attacks are the enemy of Pakistan,” he said, adding that they would not shake the resolve of the country’s police.
Balochistan has long struggled against a low-level insurgency by the Balochistan Liberation Army and other small separatist groups demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad.
Authorities say they have suppressed the insurgency, but the violence has persisted. The province has also been the scene of attacks by militants from the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State group.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this story from Islamabad.