Powerful blast claimed by Daesh also kills senior police officer, wounds 20 others in southwest Quetta city, officials say.

People comfort a man following the death of his relative in a bomb blast in a mosque in Quetta on January 10, 2020.
People comfort a man following the death of his relative in a bomb blast in a mosque in Quetta on January 10, 2020. (Banaras Khan / AFP)

A suicide bomber targeted a mosque in southwestern Pakistan during evening prayers Friday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 20 others, officials said.

The bombing, claimed by Daesh, wounded another 20 worshipers in the city of Quetta, the capital of the restive Balochistan province, said the city's police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema.

The slain police officer was the likely target of the attack, but authorities were still investigating, said a second police official, Mohammad Ajmal.

Police said an improvised explosive device had been planted at the mosque inside a seminary in the city. It exploded during evening prayers on Friday, the second bombing in Quetta this week.

Mohammad Waseem, a doctor at Quetta's Sandeman hospital, confirmed that 15 victims had died.

A senior police officer, Haji Amanullah was among the dead. His son was killed by unknown persons last month.

The police chief of Balochistan province, Mohsin Hassan Butt, also confirmed the death toll, telling AFP: "Nineteen people are still taking medical treatment, the condition of three to four is critical."

Worshippers targeted 

Fida Mohammad, who was attending evening prayers, said about 60 people were present at the time of the attack on the mosque, which is located in a densely populated area.

The explosion ripped through the front row of worshippers seconds after the prayer began, he told AFP.

"It was a powerful blast, people were screaming and running here and there –– many people were injured because of the stampede," Mohammad said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Balochistan's chief minister, Jam Kamal Khan, condemned the attack. In a statement, Pakistan's military said soldiers were at the scene of the attack to assist civil authorities.

A senior Turkish official condemned the "despicable attack," saying "the people of Pakistan will not be deterred by such cowardly acts."

"We strongly condemn the loss of innocent lives in the mosque in Quetta. We extend our deepest condolences to the brotherly people of Pakistan. These attacks in Quetta are despicable and unacceptable," Turkey's Presidential Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun said.

Daesh claims responsibility

Provincial home minister Zia Ullah Langu told reporters that investigations by bomb disposal officers indicated that a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

A spokesman for the provincial government, Liaqat Shahwani, confirmed a suicide bomber was to blame.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE intelligence group.

The attack came just days after a roadside bomb in Quetta hit a paramilitary force vehicle, killing two troops.

Hizbul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban [or TTP], claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

Last May, a bombing at a mosque in Quetta killed two people, including the prayer leader, and wounded 28 worshipers. In August, a powerful bomb exploded inside a mosque during Friday prayers on Quena's outskirts.

Although Pakistani militants often carry out such attacks, Balochistan province is also the scene of a low-level insurgency by militants demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region's natural resources such as gas and oil.

Pakistan's government says it has quelled the insurgency, but violence has continued.

The province shares a long border with Afghanistan and Iran.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies