CHAMAN - At least three people including a central JUI-F leader were killed and 12 others sustained injuries in a bomb blast in a Chaman market on Saturday.

Police said the high-intensity bomb blast targeted Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Deputy General Secretary Maulana Muhammad Hanif on Taj Road, a busy market place. The explosion shattered windows of nearby buildings and several vehicles.

The bomb was planted inside a motorcycle standing on roadside. Police said the blast took place in front of the JUI-F leader’s office. Police officer Muhammad Iqbal said the bomb detonated remotely when Maulana Hanif was exiting the building, killing him and two other men.

Chaman Assistant Commissioner Yasir Dashti said the explosion initially left Maulana Muhammad Hanif critically injured. He was being shifted to a Quetta hospital when he succumbed to his injuries.

The blast occurred on Taj Road in Chaman, which is located just kilometres away from the country’s border with Afghanistan.

The dead include a 12-year-old child, Chaman District Police Officer Shaukat Mohmand said. The injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Chaman, where an emergency was declared.

According to bomb disposal squad official, 4 to 5 kg explosive devices were used for targeting Maulana Hanif.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

Heavy contingents of the law enforcement agencies cordoned off the whole area in order to continue relief activities smoothly in the affected zone.

JUI-F leaders have been targeted in attacks in Balochistan in the past as well. In May 2017, JUI-F leader and former Senate deputy chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri had suffered injuries in a suicide attack on his convoy in Mastung. At least 28 people were killed in the attack and 39 others were injured.

In 2014, party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had survived a suicide attack in Quetta when he was returning after addressing a public meeting at Sadiq Shaheed Ground.

Reacting to the Chaman bomb blast, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlu Rehman announced shutter down strike and protests in Balochistan on Sunday (today), reported a private TV channel.

The JUI-F head announced peaceful protests in all district headquarters of Balochistan. He said Maulana Hanif was our close companion and member of party’s consultative board.

He condemned the attack on Maulana Hanif and expressed solidarity with the victims. He said the government has failed to provide security to citizens. He said citizens and Ulema are not safe in this country, adding such incidents cannot demoralise our brave workers. He reaffirmed that Azadi March would be held in October and workers would march towards Islamabad in a peaceful way.

Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmed Shah strongly condemned the blast in Chaman reiterating his government’s resolve to thwart any conspiracy impeding the development of Balochistan.

In a statement issued in Islamabad, the minister expressed heartfelt sorrow and condoled over the loss of innocent lives and property in the blast. He prayed to Almighty to rest the departed souls in eternal peace, grant courage to the bereaved families and for early recovery of the injured.

He said the attack was an attempt to undermine the determination of law enforcement agencies and that the ongoing development in Chaman was haunting the anti-state elements.

Ijaz Shah said that the elements involved in the terrorist attack would be taken to task as no one could be allowed to create obstacles in the journey of development in the country. He resolved that the government would continue the development works including the trade as well as border security management.