A powerful bomb exploded in the parking lot of a luxury hotel in Quetta, southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least four people and injuring at least nine others, police said. Security forces rushed to the Serena Hotel and no one was allowed to approach the site of the explosion. Police said rescuers transported the victims to nearby hospitals. Images broadcast on Pakistani news channels showed cars on fire.
Hours after the attack, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement, claiming it was a suicide bombing. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, are an insurgent group distinct from the Afghan Taliban.
Senior police official Azhar Akram said officers were trying to determine whether the bomb was placed in a vehicle parked in the hotel parking lot. He provided no further details, saying police are still investigating. Other security officials said the bomb exploded minutes after a car entered the parking lot, and authorities were investigating whether it was a suicide bombing.
Wasim Beg, spokesperson for the provincial health department, said four people died and 12 were injured in the bombing. It was not known who was behind the attack. The southwestern province of Balochistan is the scene of a long-standing insurgency led by secessionist groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Front and the Balochistan Liberation Army. For decades, they have organized attacks to pressure their demands for independence. The Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State group are also present there.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the provincial capital. Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quick to blame neighboring India for the hotel bombing, although he provided no evidence to support the claim. He told Pakistani news station Geo that Pakistan had only one enemy and that it was neighboring India, which he said was behind the bombing. Ahmed said they had received information about possible attacks in the capital, Islamabad and elsewhere and that the information had been shared with the relevant authorities to strengthen security.
Liaquat Shahwani, a spokesperson for the provincial government, called the attack an act of terrorism. “Terrorists want to disrupt the peace in Balochistan. Those who do not want to see progress and prosperity in Balochistan province are responsible for this act of terrorism.”
Jam Kamal Khan, Chief Minister of Balochistan, took to Twitter to condemn the bombing. Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said authorities were investigating and a statement would be released later.
Balochistan Interior Minister Ziaullah Langove said Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong was staying at the hotel at the time of the bombing, but the motive for the attack was unclear . He said no guests were injured, but a policeman was among the four people who died in the attack.
The hotel is frequented by foreigners as it is the only luxury hotel in town and is considered safe. Arbab Kamran Kasi, a doctor at the main hospital in Quetta, said a dozen injured were being transported and they declared an emergency at the hospital to take care of the victims.
The Quetta bombing came hours after Pakistan and neighboring Iran opened a new border crossing point in Balochistan to improve trade and economic relations. Balochistan shares a border with Iran and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban have been targeting military and civilians across the country since 2001, when this Islamic nation joined the United States-led war on terrorism following the September 11 attack on the United States. Since then, the insurgents have declared war on the Pakistani government and carried out numerous attacks. Pakistani militant groups are often linked with those across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has almost completed a fence along the border with Afghanistan, which Islamabad says is necessary to prevent attacks from militants on both sides. Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan often accuse each other of turning a blind eye to Islamist militants operating along the porous border.
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