Karachi: At least nine policemen were killed and 13 others injured on Monday when a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a police van in the restive Balochistan province, in the latest attack on the security personnel in Pakistan.
The van carrying soldiers of the Balochistan Constabulary was hit by a motorcyclist laden with explosives in the mountainous region of Kunbri in Bolan, police said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous such attacks have been blamed on Baloch insurgents and Islamic militants.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mahmood Notezai said the attack took place when the policemen were returning from Sibi to Quetta. "They were returning after completing security duties for the Sibi festival which ended yesterday," the official said.
Notezai said that the preliminary evidence suggests it was a suicide attack.
At least nine personnel of the Balochistan Constabulary were killed and 13 were injured in the bomb attack in Bolan, Notezai said.
Another police official said the militants might have tried to target the Sibi festival which is held annually but might not have succeeded in piercing the heavy security cover. "So instead they targeted these men who were returning to Quetta," he added.
According to the official, the motorcyclist - believed to be a suicide bomber - rammed his vehicle into the police van. However, he said the exact nature of the attack will be ascertained after investigation.
A bomb disposal team reached the site of the incident and the area is being searched after the explosion.
As soon as the incident was reported, local administration and security forces reached the spot.
The Balochistan Constabulary (BC) personnel were returning from duty in Sibi Mela when they were targeted. The truck overturned due to the intensity of the explosion.
The bodies and injured personnel were shifted to the Sibi district where they were provided medical aid. The condition of some of the injured is critical.
The BC is a department of the provincial police force that provides security at important events and in sensitive areas, including jails.
Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is home to a long-running violent insurgency. Baloch insurgent groups have previously carried out several attacks targeting the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo condemned the attack and expressed grief at the number of casualties.
He said terrorist elements wanted to accomplish their wicked aims through cowardly actions. He added that terrorists were conspiring to keep Balochistan under-developed by creating unrest and instability in the province.
Pakistan has witnessed a spike in terror attacks in recent weeks and January was the deadliest month since 2018 with 134 people having lost their lives - a 139 per cent spike - and 254 others injured in at least 44 attacks across the country.
Since the talks between the government and the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) broke down in November last year, the militant group has intensified its attacks while insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with it.
On February 26, four people were killed, and 14 others were injured in an IED blast at a market in Balochistan.