QUETTA -  At least 32 people including five policemen were martyred and dozens injured in a suicide bomb attack on a polling station in Quetta as millions voted in nationwide elections on Wednesday.

There was chaos and carnage after the deadly blast. Shoes and charred vehicles littered the blood-smeared road near the polling station in the Balochistan capital, as the dead and injured were shuttled to hospital accompanied by distraught loved ones.

Local officials said the bomber was trying to enter the Tameer-i-Nau polling station on East Bypass in Bhosa Mandi area when police intervened and the attacker detonated his explosives.

According to details, the attacker targeted the vehicle of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema who remained unhurt in the attack.

DIG Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) confirmed that Investigation Officer Riaz Notkani and Station House Officer (SHO) Muhammad Hameed among 32 people were martyred in the attack.

Security forces cordoned off the entire area of the incident. Police confirmed the attack was a suicide blast and Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) said that 18 to 20 kilograms of explosive was used and the age of the suicide bomber could not be ascertained.

"Suddenly there was a huge blast. I was flung on the ground and I thought that I was about to die," madrassa teacher Hafiz Kareem told AFP from his hospital bed.

Dr Wasim Baig, spokesman for the Sandeman Provincial Hospital in Quetta, said the death toll had risen to 32 with 70 injured, including eight in critical condition. The dead include five policemen and an eight-year-old girl, Baig added.

Mehmood Khan, 18, said he was going to vote when the bomb went off, killing two of his friends. "Suddenly there was a huge blast and then bodies, blood, cries, dust was everywhere," said Khan.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group through its official Amaq news agency.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) while condemning the attack has summoned report from Balochistan government.

Polling resumed under the supervision of police, Frontier Corps and Pakistan Army in PB-31 constituency after the blast.

Voters appeared undeterred, returning to polling booths after the dead and injured had been evacuated.

"Bombings keep on happening and life also goes on here, I am voting," Abdul Razzaq, 50, told AFP.

"What has happened, happened, it cannot stop people from voting," added Ali Khan, 30.

An earlier attack in Balochistan on Wednesday left one policeman dead and three wounded when a hand grenade was thrown at a polling station in the village of Koshk, in Khuzdar district.

The leading candidates to become prime minister following the election condemned the attack on Twitter. Imran Khan called it a “terrorist attack” by Pakistan’s enemies “seeking to disrupt our democratic process”.

His opponent Shehbaz Sharif said he was "heartbroken" to learn about the attack.

Balochistan has suffered the brunt of a series of attacks that killed more than 180 people across the country during the brief but acrimonious election campaign. A blast in Mastung district also claimed by IS killed 153 people including local politician Siraj Raisani.

He was one of three election candidates killed by the militants during the election campaign.

3 soldiers martyred in Dashtak

Four people including three security personnel were martyred when a Military Protection Party escorting polling staff was targeted near Pak-Iran border, Inter-Services Public Relations said.

According to ISPR, the incident took place in Dashtak area of Balochistan when the military protection party providing security to polling staff of NA-271 Kech district was ambushed.

Three Pak Army soldiers and a polling staff embraced martyrdom, the ISPR said on Wednesday.

 

 

Our staff reporter/Agencies