Taliban offshoot kills 20, injures dozens in twin bombings

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  • 11 killed in bicycle bombing near a bus in Quetta, several injured
  • 9 killed in suicide attack targeting a police armoured personnel carrier in Peshawar
  • Taliban ‘splinter group’ Ahrarul Hind claims responsibility for both attacks

Two bombings in Quetta and Peshawar killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens on Friday as the banned terrorist outfit, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan denied that it was involved in the fresh incidents of terrorism.

The explosions underscored the country’s fragile security even as the government tries to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban terrorists in the country.

In Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, a bomb exploded near a bus, killing 10 people and wounding 37, said Dr Ali Mardan at a local hospital. Four were in critical condition, he said.

The bomb, hidden on a bicycle, exploded when the bus drove by, police officer Abdur Razzak Cheema said. Two vehicles carrying army troops had just passed by, Cheema said.

Witness Bakht Mohammad, 27, said he was going to a market in a rickshaw when the bomb went off. “I heard a big bang and then something hit, wounding my leg, back and both arms,” he said. “I was bleeding and the driver started reciting verses from the Quran.”

Balochistan is home to separatists battling the state and sectarian groups who often attack minority Shias. It is also believed to be home to many Afghan Taliban members.

In Peshawar, a suicide attacker blew himself up near a police armoured vehicle about 20 kilometres south of the city, killing nine people and wounding 43, police officer Safdar Khan said. One woman and a child were among the dead, he said.

Police officer Mohammad Faisal said most of the dead were civilians, though the blast wounded many police officers.

He said that police recently stepped up patrols in the area due to threats from militants from the nearby Khyber tribal region. The Pakistan Army has carried out several operations in Khyber in an effort to rid the area of militants.

One of the injured police officers, Tahir Shah, said the blast was so powerful that he felt it even inside the targeted armoured vehicle. “I am still feeling deaf,” he said.

A 10-year-old boy, Bilal Khan, said he was selling popcorn on a cart in the bazaar when the attack took place.

“My cart turned over, and I fell on the ground. Something hit me in the legs,” he said.

AHRARUL HIND CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY:

An increasingly active Taliban splinter group Ahrarul Hind or “Liberators of India” – a name referring to the whole of the subcontinent – claimed responsibility for both attacks.

“We claim both Peshawar and Quetta attacks,” their chief, Umar Qasmi, told a foreign news agency. “We don’t abide by these talks and will continue to stage attacks.”

The TTP leadership immediately distanced itself from the Friday attacks.

“The TTP strongly condemns the Peshawar and Quetta blasts,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. “We have no connection to these attacks because we are observing a ceasefire.”

Ahrarul Hind, which splintered from the Pakistani Taliban just a month ago, had previously claimed responsibility for an attack in central Islamabad earlier this month when suicide bombers and gunmen killed 11 people including an additional district and sessions judge.

Investigators believe that Qasmi, the leader of the group, is capable of drawing support from other militant outfits, including several linked to al Qaeda that have wreaked bloody havoc in the country over the last decade.