SUKKUR/KARACHI - Ghaffar Mahar/Agencies - A bomb placed by an ethnic militant group derailed a train in the Kashmore district of Sindh, killing eight people including six children Sunday afternoon.

Another 20 people were wounded by the blast near Thull, which caused several train cars of Khushal Khan Khattak Express to run off the track, police said.

Most of the injured were taken to Thull hospital and Jacobabad civil hospital while critically injured were later shifted to Chandka Medical College Hospital, Larkana. Four of the deceased were identified as Shaban, Ghalib, Muhammad Hassan and Ali Hassan while bodies of two persons could not be identified.

Deputy Superintendent Railways said that there were around 340 passengers on the train, which left Karachi for Peshawar in the morning. The explosion blew up four feet piece of railway track which caused derailment of bogies. Railway officials said three bogies were badly damaged.

Deputy Superintendent Police Asghar Shah said that four compartments of the train derailed when the bomb exploded at a railway track near Anrawah Railway Station of the district. He said that an estimated 100 meters of the track were damaged in the blast, creating problems for the railway traffic.

Shortly after the attack, police and paramilitary troops reached the blast site and cordoned off the area for investigations. The bomb disposal squad (BDS) officials said that the blast was triggered off by a remote controlled device and the bomb fixed at the track was exploded as soon as the train passed near it. BDS officials said that local made explosives weighing 10kg were used by the miscreants.

During examination of the spot, police found another bomb planted at the track which was disposed of by the BDS. TV channels showed footage of several badly damaged train cars lying off the track. Railways Minister Saad Rafiq said officials were working to reopen the track at earliest. He also announced a compensation of Rs0.5 million for each dead and Rs0.1 million for the each injured.

Kashmore is in Sindh but adjoins insurgency-hit Balochistan. One of several ethnic Baloch groups operating in the resource-rich province, the Baloch Republican Army, claimed responsibility. The group's spokesman, Sarbaz Baloch, said in a phone call to an American news agency that the attack was a reaction to what he alleged were killings in Dera Bugti by  forces. The group also blew up three gas pipelines last week, suspending supplies to millions of household for two days.

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have strongly condemned the terror attack. The prime minister directed hospital administration to provide best medical treatment to the injured people. Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq also condemned the blast and directed the concerned officials to complete the inquiry report about the incident within three days. He also directed to speed up the rescue activities on the site of blast and send a relief train immediately.

The General Manager Railways dispatched two relief trains to the blast site for shifting passengers to Peshawar. Local politicians including PPP’s MPA Sardar Muhammad Muqeem Khoso and Senator Aijaz Dhamrah also reached the civil hospital and met with the injured. Railway authorities dispatched teams to the blast site for relief and rescue operations as rail traffic on both up and down tracks was suspended.

This was the third attempt allegedly by the Baloch militants in just three months. On January 17, three passengers including a child were killed and 18 others sustained injuries when a remote-controlled bomb planted under the rail track hit the same train – Khushhal Express – near Kotla Hassan Shah, town of Rajanpur district in south Punjab.

Similarly, on October 21, Jaffar Express was hit by the terrorists and around 17 people lost their lives in the incident.

Talking to journalists, Saad Rafique said that Baloch militants should come at table for dialogues instead of playing with the lives of innocent. He said that a comprehensive security plan had been chalked out by the Pakistan Railways Police to ensure the safe journey of the passengers and to protect the Railways infrastructure. He said that ministry of Railways and Interior as well as the provincial governments were equally responsible to save the life of people from terrorists and no stone will left unturned for this purpose.