Suicide bomber kills at least 70 people at Pakistan hospital

More than 100 injured in blast as lawyers came to mourn colleague in Quetta

A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100 more in an attack on mourners gathered at a hospital in Quetta, according to officials in the violence-plagued southwestern province of Baluchistan.

The bomber struck as more than 100 lawyers had come to the hospital in the heart of Quetta, after the body of their colleague, prominent attorney Bilal Kasi was brought there.

Mr Kasi, the chief of the province’s bar association, was shot and killed by gunmen earlier on Monday as he was on his way to his office. The lawyers gathered at the Quetta Civil Hospital to express their grief as is common with public figures.

Mr Kasi was among the most outspoken lawyers in the province and was popular for campaigning for improvements in the lawyers’ community.

"It was a suicide attack," said Zahoor Ahmed Afridi, a senior police officer. Mr Afridi said the attacker hit shortly after Mr Kasi's body was brought in and that it seemed the two events were connected. One of the survivors described a horrifying scene, saying there were "bodies everywhere".

Abdul Rehman Miankhel, a senior official at the government-run Civil Hospital, where the explosion occurred, told reporters that at least 70 people had been killed, with more than 100 wounded, as the casualty toll spiked from initial estimates.

“There are many wounded, so the death toll could rise,” said Rehmat Saleh Baloch, the provincial health minister.

Television footage showed scenes of chaos, with panicked people fleeing through debris as smoke filled the hospital corridors.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Amaq news agency reported.

“A martyr from the Islamic State detonated his explosive belt at a gathering of justice ministry employees and Pakistani policemen in the city of Quetta,” Amaq said.

The Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar has also claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police cordoned off the hospital following the blast.

Aside from a long-running separatist insurgency, and sectarian tensions, Baluchistan also suffers from rising crime.

Quetta has also long been regarded as a base for the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership has regularly held meetings there in the past.

In May, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike while travelling to Quetta from the Pakistan-Iran border.

Agencies