At least nine people were killed and 35 others injured in a blast near a district court in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Muhammad Khurasani, the official spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed that the Sunni militant group — which has frequently targeted the area over the past year — carried out the attack.
“Four members of the FC [ Frontier Corps] have been killed in the blast, while the remaining five are locals,” Akbar Hussain Durrani, home secretary of the Balochistan province, told the Express Tribune newspaper.
“We cannot ascertain right now whether it was an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or a suicide bomb attack,” Durrani reportedly said.
Rescue and emergency personnel were at the blast site, according to local media reports. An emergency was declared in all nearby hospitals, where the 35 people injured in the attack were being treated.
The Frontier Corps are part of the country’s paramilitary forces, and are involved in an ongoing offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The counterinsurgency operation — named Zarb-e-Azb — has killed over 3,500 militants and has, according to the Pakistani government, significantly weakened the Sunni militant group.
However, in recent months, since it confirmed the death of its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban — now led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor — has ratcheted up attacks across the country. Last month, 15 people were killed in a suicide bomb blast outside a polio eradication center in an attack claimed by both the Pakistani Taliban and Jundallah — a militant group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Saturday’s attacks in Quetta came even as representatives from four nations — the United States, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan — met in Islamabad to discuss the fate of peace overtures between the Afghan government and the Taliban.