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Bomb Blast in Southwestern Pakistan Kills 4, Injures 15

Police officers examine a damaged police vehicle at the site of bomb blast, in Quetta, Pakistan, Monday, April 10, 2023.
Police officers examine a damaged police vehicle at the site of bomb blast, in Quetta, Pakistan, Monday, April 10, 2023.

Authorities in southwestern Pakistan said Monday that a powerful bomb blast struck a police vehicle, killing at least four people and injuring 15 others.

The bombing occurred on a busy road in central Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. The dead included two police personnel and two civilians, with hospital officials fearing the death toll could rise.

Waseem Baig, a spokesman for the city's main hospital, confirmed the casualties to VOA by phone, saying several among those wounded "are in critical condition."

A senior provincial police officer told local media the explosives were planted in a motorcycle.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the bombing as a terrorist attack, his office said.

The outlawed Baluchistan or Baluch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the bombing. Pakistan, the United States and Britain have designated the BLA as a global terrorist organization. Baluch insurgents routinely stage attacks against security forces in Baluchistan. Militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State are also active in the sparsely populated region.

Monday's attack comes just days after authorities announced a top Baluch separatist leader was in custody.

A military statement on Friday identified him as Gulzar Imam, also known as Shambay, saying his arrest was a "serious blow" to the Baluch insurgency in the natural resources-rich province.

Imam led the banned Baluch Nationalist Army he founded in early 2022 and maintained close links with other insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan.

Like other Baluch insurgent outfits, the group has vehemently opposed China's investment in infrastructure-building projects in the province and publicly threatened to attack Chinese workers associated with them.

"Imam has been involved in militancy since 2009 and possesses a wealth of knowledge about Baluch armed groups, their structure, financial sources, and operational tactics," Kiyya Baloch, an independent analyst tracking the insurgency, told VOA in written comments from Norway.

He described the detained militant as a "seasoned guerrilla commander" and "one of the most known faces" of the insurgency in the southern parts of Baluchistan.

The province borders Afghanistan and Iran, with Islamabad repeatedly alleging the insurgents use the territories of the neighboring countries to plot cross-border attacks. Afghan and Iranian officials deny the allegations.

China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan, including Baluchistan, in recent years, building roads and power plants, expanding the country's seaports, and building other infrastructure under Beijing's global Belt and Road Initiative.

The deep-water Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in the province is described as the centerpiece of what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, a multi-billion-dollar collaboration.