Deadly suicide blast at polling station casts shadow over Pakistan elections

Around 35 other people were hurt, with several in a critical condition.

A Pakistani woman mourns the death of her family member outside a hospital in Quetta (AP)
A Pakistani woman mourns the death of her family member outside a hospital in Quetta (AP)

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle has rammed into people waiting outside a busy polling station in the Pakistani city of Quetta, killing at least 31 and casting a dark shadow over election day.

The attack in the capital of Baluchistan province underlined the difficulties the majority Muslim nation faces as it casts ballots to elect its third consecutive civilian government.

The bombing also wounded 35 people, with several reported to be in a critical condition.

A man mourns the death of his family member at the site of the bombing (AP)

A witness to the attack in Quetta, Abdul Haleem, who was waiting to cast his ballot, said he saw a motorcycle drive into the crowd of voters just seconds before the explosion. Mr Haleem’s uncle was killed in the blast.

“There was a deafening bang followed by thick cloud of smoke and dust and so much crying from the wounded people,” he said.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but local officials were quick to blame the Islamic State group (IS).

Baluchistan also saw the worst violence during election campaigning earlier this month, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally, killing 149 people, including the candidate Siraj Raisani. Another 400 were wounded. Voting in that constituency has been suspended.

IS claimed responsibility for that attack, though Baluchistan has seen relentless assaults, both by the province’s secessionists and Sunni militants who have killed hundreds of Shias living there.

A Pakistani soldiers stands guard at the site of the bombing (AP)

In recent years, the IS affiliate in the region has emerged as a major force behind violence, often using local Sunni radicals from the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to carry out its attacks.

On Tuesday, militants lobbed grenades and opened fire at a military convoy escorting election staffers and voting material in Baluchistan’s district of Turbat, killing four troops.

Also on Wednesday, shooting between supporters of two opposing political parties killed one person and wounded two in a village near the north-western city of Swabi. Later, more clashes between rival political parties killed another person and wounded 15 elsewhere in the country.

Press Association

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