quetta               -              An explosion at a mosque in Quetta killed at least 15 people, including a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and a prayer leader on Friday.

Several other people were also injured in the blast.

According to Quetta Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema and hospital sources, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Amanullah and the mosque’s imam were among the deceased.

Law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area as investigators were searching for forensic evidence.

DSP Amanullah’s son was gunned down by unidentified persons last month at Saryab Road in Quetta.

Police told a foreign news agency that an improvised explosive device had been planted at the mosque inside a seminary in the city which exploded during evening prayers on Friday, the second bombing in Quetta this week.

However, a senior police officer who asked not to be named told a private TV channel that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Liaqat Shahwani, also confirmed to a news agency that a suicide bomber was to blame.

The injured were rushed to hospital where some of the injured were said to be in a critical condition.

It is immediately not clear what caused the blast which took place at a seminary in Quetta’s Satellite Town.

Balochistan police chief Mohsin Hassan Butt said: “Nineteen people are still taking medical treatment, the condition of three to four is critical.”

The mosque is located in a densely populated Pashtun-majority neighbourhood.

Fida Mohammad, who was attending the Maghrib prayers, said about 60 people were present at the time of the attack on the mosque, located in Ghousabad neighbourhood.

The explosion ripped through the front row of worshippers seconds after the prayer began, he told a foreign news agency.

“It was a powerful blast, people were screaming and running here and there — many people were injured because of the stampede,” Mohammad said.

TV footage of the explosion’s aftermath showed debris and shattered glass strewn on the floor at the scene.

Police chief of Balochistan Mohsin Hassan Butt said the bomb disposal officers were investigating nature of the bomb as well as whether it was detonated remotely or if a suicide bomber was involved.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Emergency was declared at all hospitals of Quetta while authorities directed doctors and paramedical staff to be present at their respective duty places.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan and Home Minister Ziaullah Langove condemned the blast and expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives.

Balochistan has long been wrecked by ethnic, sectarian, militant and separatist violence perpetrated by a potpourri of groups. Officials have repeatedly blamed “hostile forces” for violence in the province.

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and regretted the loss of lives, while directing for the best possible treatment to be given to the injured. The premier also sought a report of the incident.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, while condemning the incident, said that those who targeted worshippers have no religion or tribal affiliation. “They are only terrorists and deserve the harshest punishment,” he said, adding that state enemies are once again trying to create a law and order situation in Balochistan.

The chief minister said, however, that they will not let anyone destroy the hard-earned peace that had been achieved through the sacrifices of the armed forces and citizens.

Balochistan Home Minister Langove also condemned the blast, saying that “terrorists were scared of Pakistan’s development”.

“Internal and external enemies are making failed efforts to create panic and unrest in the country,” he said in a statement.

Langove vowed that “defeated terrorists will never be allowed to succeed”. He expressed solidarity with the victims and said that no negligence will be tolerated in the medical treatment of the injured.

Talking to media, the provincial home minister said terrorists had considered the mosque to be an “easy target”. He added that the government was taking stock of the security arrangements after the bombing.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to condemn the blast. “My profound condolences and sympathies are with the bereaved families of the martyrs. Prayers for early recovery of the injured,” he wrote.

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the blast. He expressed condolences at the loss of lives and demanded that the “planners of terrorism” in the province be brought to justice.

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman while deploring the incident called on the Balochistan government to bring its perpetrators to book after investigating the blast. His party’s secretary general Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, meanwhile, said the incident showed that the provincial government had “completely failed” and demanded the Balochistan chief minister to resign.

The incident comes three days after a motorcycle parked close to a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle blew up in Quetta, leaving two people dead and another 14 injured. That blast, claimed by Hizbul Ahrar — an offshoot of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had come after a respite of some weeks in what has traditionally been a violence-prone area.

In November, at least two FC personnel were martyred and five others injured in an explosion in Quetta’s Kuchlak area. The security personnel were on routine patrol in the area when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated.