Attack on Shia pilgrims kills 19

International

At least 19 people were killed and 25 others injured Sunday in a car bomb attack that targeted a bus taking Shia pilgrims to Iran in Pakistan's restive southwest, hours after 21 soldiers abducted by Taliban from check posts near Peshawar were gunned down by the militants.

Explosives planted in a car parked by the roadside were detonated by remote control when the bus was passing through Mastung district of Balochistan province, Deputy Commissioner Tufail Baloch told reporters. "Nineteen people were killed and 25 more injured," he said. Baloch said the buses had been provided an escort in view of earlier attacks on Shia pilgrims.

Other officials said the wounded, many of them with burn injuries, were taken to two hospitals in the provincial capital of Quetta. Officials of the bomb disposal squad said an estimated 80 kg of explosives were used in the attack.

No group claimed responsibility for the incident though the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been blamed for earlier attacks on Shias in Balochistan.

The vehicle that was targeted was part of a convoy of three buses carrying Shia pilgrims from Lahore, Jhang and Multan in Punjab province, to neighbouring Iran. The buses were headed for the Taftan border crossing.

The route taken by the buses is usually cleared in advance but the attack occurred near a market where several vehicles were parked by the roadside, he said. The explosion triggered a fire in the bus.

Witnesses said several persons were burnt alive. Footage on television showed that the bus was reduced to smouldering metal. Rescue workers were seen removing charred bodies from the vehicle.

The two other buses were slightly damaged by the blast. Some passengers in the second bus sustained minor injuries. Security personnel cordoned off the area and carried out a search operation.

Yesterday, seven persons were killed and 50 others wounded when a bus was targeted with a bomb near a railway station in Karachi.

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