A bomb blast on a train in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province of Baluchistan has killed at least 13 people and injured 40 others, with the death toll expected to rise.
The explosion occurred on Tuesday after the train had pulled to a stop at Sibi railway station, around 160 kilometres south of its destination, Quetta, the provincial capital.
“We have recovered 12 dead bodies from the train. They have been burnt to charcoal,” said senior police official Mohammad Nazar, adding one injured person had died after being taken to hospital.
Sher Khan Bazai, a senior administration official, confirmed the incident, adding the injured had been taken to a military hospital in the same town.
“Twenty-four patients are in critical condition, they will be shifted to Quetta as soon as they are stable enough to travel,” he said, adding that the injured included six women and four children.
Two carriages of the train caught fire after the blast, but the flames had since been put out, Nazar told AFP.
“I can’t say whether the dead are adults or children as they are beyond recognition,” he said.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique told Geo news channel it “could be in response to the ongoing operation” launched by paramilitary troops against separatist rebels a day before.
The Frontier Corps (FC) began an operation against insurgents early on Monday in the Kalat district, around 300 kilometres southwest of Quetta.
“Around 40 insurgents belonging to the Baluch Republican Army (BRA) and Baluch Liberation Army (BLA) were killed during the operation,” the FC said on Monday, though the toll could not be independently verified.
The train, known as the Jaffar Express, is a daily express service covering a 1460-kilometre journey from the garrison city of Rawalpindi in the Punjab province to Quetta.
Bazai, the administration official, said the two affected bogies had been disconnected and the train would resume its journey.
Rafique said the same service had been attacked a few days earlier but there were no casualties.
“A few days ago terrorists had fired upon a train when it came out of a tunnel (in Baluchistan), but they ran away when security forces responded to firing.
“The train was standing at Sibi railway station where FC and other law enforcement agencies are always alert. We will have to review the security and find out the cracks from where the terrorists slipped and planted the explosives,” he added.