QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least nine people were killed and 35 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a military convoy in Pakistan’s western city of Quetta on Saturday, police and hospital officials said.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khurasani told Reuters that the group, also known as the TTP, was responsible for the attack in the capital of the province of Baluchistan.
The bombing was the latest in a region which is home to the planned route of a $46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor.
“The suicide bomber was riding a bicycle close to a Frontier Corps vehicle,” said senior police official Imtiaz Shah, referring to the branch of Pakistan’s paramilitary forces targeted in the attack.
At least three Frontier Corps personnel were killed and 15 were injured in the attack that occurred in the city center in the late afternoon, Frontier Corps spokesman Khan Wasey said.
A 12-year-old girl was also among the dead, said Ajab Khan, a doctor at the city’s Civil Hospital, where the casualties were taken.
Rich in resources, Baluchistan is at the heart of the multi-billion-dollar energy and infrastructure projects which China and Pakistan are planning along a corridor stretching from the Arabian Sea to China’s Xinjiang region.
The province, the poorest and least developed in Pakistan, has seen nearly a decade of separatist violence against the government and non-Baluch ethnic groups.
Baluch activists and human rights groups claim the military has carried out a campaign of kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killing of suspected separatists, and a security crackdown has severely limited freedom of movement.
In January, five Pakistani soldiers and two coast guard members were killed in separate attacks in the province, and a suicide bomber killed at least 15 people outside a polio eradication center in Quetta.
Reporting by Gul Yousufzai; Additional reporting by Asad Hashim in Islamabad and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Andrew Bolton