QUETTA - At least 19 Shia pilgrims were killed in a car-bomb attack in Mastung district Sunday morning. Four women were among the 25 others who sustained wounds in the attack on a caravan on Quetta-Taftan Highway, some 40 Kilometres from the provincial capital.Officials said that three buses of Shia pilgrims escorted by two vehicles of Levies Force left Quetta for Iran at about 7am. While they were passing from Dringar area, an explosive-laden car parked along the road exploded. One bus caught fire and was badly damaged, killing 19 people on the spot and wounding 25 others.Windowpanes of other two buses were smashed but their occupants remained unhurt because of their being at a distance from the bomb. Due to lack of fire fighters in the area the inferno could not be timely doused, causing immense difficulties in retrieving the injured from the wreckage.Mastung Deputy Commissioner Tufail Baloch confirmed that 19 people had been killed. “One of the buses had been completely destroyed and bodies of the deceased were charred beyond recognition,” he added. An eyewitness told The Nation that the pilgrims hailed from Lahore, Jang, Rahim Yar Khan, Khaniwal and other districts of Punjab.Another eyewitness Jan Danish, who escaped the blast, said that the huge blast “scattered windowpanes of our bus. As the driver managed to stop the bus, we saw the leading bus was covered by huge flames and the injured were shouting for help. Ten of the injured were rescued while all the others burnt to death.”Soon after the incident Levies and Frontier Corps personnel reached the site and cordoned off the area. Rescue workers shifted dead bodies and injured to Bolan Medical Complex. Ehdi Centre Incharge Babul Khan said that 18 dead bodies were later moved to Immambargha at Alamdar Road from the hospital.Home Secretary Balochistan Captain (r) Akbar Hussain Durrani said it was not a suicide blast as explosives were planted in a vehicle. Bomb Disposal Squad officials said that over 70kg explosive material was used in the car-bomb. A Levies official told The Nation that the blast was so powerful that it was heard miles away from the site. “Two Levies personnel escorting the pilgrims also received splinter injuries,” he added.A spokesman of a militant organisation Jesh al-Islami called media offices and claimed responsibility for the attack. Hazara Democratic Party, Tahfuz Azadari Council and Shia Ulema Council (SUC) have strongly condemned the barbaric incident and announced three day morning.SUC head Juma Asadi and Hazara Qumi Jirga leader Qayyum Nazar Changezai in joint press conference condemned the brutal killing of innocent men, women and children. They demanded the Supreme Court and central government take prompt action against the culprits.The Mastung section of the Quetta-Taftan highway has become most insure for the Shia pilgrims as three Shia pilgrims were killed and13 injured in bomb attack on a bus in September this year. In June, a suicide attack killed 13 people in the same area; attack on another bus heading towards Nushki claimed lives of 6 people, while yet another bus of pilgrims narrowly escaped a bomb attack.As many as 26 Shia pilgrims belonging to Hazara community were killed on September 20, 2011 in an attack in the same district. Following these attacks, the government had decided to provide escort to buses carrying pilgrims but the attacks could not be stopped.