QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 10 people, including a TV journalist and senior police officials, in a suspected attack against Sh’ite Muslims inside a hospital in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta on Friday.
A member of parliament from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party was among the scores wounded in the attack outside the emergency ward of the hospital in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, officials said.
“Ten people, including two senior police officials, were killed in the attack and another 47 wounded,” provincial police chief Rehmatullah Niazi told reporters.
A cameraman from the private TV news channel Samaa was among the dead while five other reporters were injured. They were in the hospital to cover the arrival of the body of a Shi’ite man killed in a drive-by shooting earlier in the day.
Another senior police official said it was a suicide attack and a severed head had been found at the scene. It had not been verified that it was the bomber’s head. The official said it appeared to be a sectarian attack against Shi’ites.
Police said 15 kg (33 lb) of explosives were used in the bomb that badly damaged the emergency ward building. Broken window glass and pools of blood marked the scene of the attack.
Shi’ite Muslims are a minority in Pakistan, which is about 80 percent Sunni, and thousands of people have been killed in sectarian violence across the country in the past 30 years.
The country’s biggest and poorest province of Baluchistan has also suffered a decades-long low-level insurgency by Baluch separatists who are demanding more provincial autonomy and control of its resources.
The leadership council of the Afghan Taliban, known as the “Quetta shura” is widely believed to be based in Afghan refugee camps outside the city, although Pakistani officials deny that.
Pakistan has seen a wave of suicide bomb attacks in the past three years — most of them in the country’s northwest where troops are battling Pakistani Taliban militants, who are Sunni Muslims.
Pakistani security forces have largely cleared militants from at least three of their strongholds — Swat, the tribal regions of South Waziristan and Bajaur on the Afghan border — in offensives launched last year.
The latest military offensive in other tribal regions of Orakzai and neighbouring Kurram has killed about 300 people, military officials said. There has been no independent confirmation of the deaths, however, and militants often dismiss official estimates of their casualties.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is an important U.S. ally whose action against militants along the Afghan border is seen as crucial to U.S. efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, particularly as Washington sends more troops to fight a raging Taliban insurgency there.
The United States has stepped up its own drone missile attacks in Pakistan’s northwest, since a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base across the border in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost in late December.
Most of these attacks have been in the North Waziristan region where pilotless missile-firing aircraft struck again on Friday, killing six militants. Independent verification is not possible.
U.S. ally Pakistan officially objects to the drone strikes, saying they are a violation of its sovereignty and fuel anti-U.S. feeling, which complicates Pakistan’s efforts against militancy.
Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba and Zeeshan Haider; Writing by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Bill Tarrant