DAWN.COM | Syed Ali Shah
QUETTA/ISLAMABAD, June 15: At least 23 people, including 14 female students and the deputy commissioner Quetta, were killed Saturday in multiple bomb and gun attacks by militants in the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters at a press conference that several parts of the Bolan Medical Complex, taken under siege by terrorists, have now been cleared by security forces.
An operation was being carried out by security personnel to free the Bolan Medical Complex from heavily armed militants who had taken over parts of the hospital and were reported to have taken several people hostage.
A large number of patients and doctors were trapped inside the complex when heavily armed militants took the hospital under siege.
According to security forces, parts of the hospital have been cleared while four gunmen are still believed to be inside the complex.
Nisar confirmed that 35 hostages had now been freed by security forces.
“According to our official reports, four terrorists have been killed in the operation while one suspect has been arrested from outside the hospital,” said the interior minister.
The interior minister said further details of the ongoing operation to clear the hospital would be announced later.
Condemning the earlier attack on Ziarat Residency, he said that orders have been issued to re-build the historic monument of the country. Chaudhry Nisar also revealed that outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility of the rocket attacks in Ziarat.
Nisar said the total death toll from the attacks in Quetta has now risen to 22, including four terrorists, four Frontier Corps personnel, Deputy Commissioner Quetta Abdul Mansoor Khan and 14 female students of the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University.
The female students were killed earlier when an improvised explosive device ripped through a bus inside the university campus.
“The bomb exploded just when female teachers and students gathered inside the bus around 3 pm to proceed for Quetta city from the university,” CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said.
The CCPO said that most of the victims were female teachers and students. He said the bus caught fire after the powerful blast.
The injured were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex, where half an hour later sounds of explosions and gunfire spread panic and chaos among the patients and doctors.
Several people were trapped inside the complex for hours as security personnel engaged in a grueling operation against the militants.
Security forces have now cleared most of the complex and evacuated the civilians, although CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said it might take another three hours to confirm that the hospital was clear of all terrorists.
Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has officially announced to observe a “day of mourning” on Sunday.
Earlier Saturday, militants attacked the Quaid-e-Azam residency in Ziarat with hand grenades, destroying the historical monument where the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah spent his last days.
A policeman was killed in the attack on the Jinnah’s monumental residency.
Officials had confirmed that most of the old memorials inside the monument were destroyed, with historic photographs of the founder burnt to the ground in the resulting fire.
It was unclear if the attack on the Quaid’s residency in Ziarat was related to the later attacks in Quetta.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid assured full support to the Balochistan Government in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Balochistan.
Speaking to media representatives in Islamabad, Rashid strongly condemned the attacks. He said that those involved in these terrorist acts were the enemies of Pakistan and Balochistan.
He said that the entire nation was with the people of Balochistan at this critical juncture.