Twin Taliban bombs targeting security forces responsible for the recent capture of senior Al-Qaeda operatives killed 24 people and wounded 82 others in southwest Pakistan on Wednesday, police said.
One attacker detonated his bomb-laden car outside the residence of the deputy chief of the Frontier Corps in Quetta city, before a second attacker blew himself up inside the house, said senior police official Hamid Shakil.
The attacks, claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, struck at rush hour and exacted a high toll in an area packed with security guarding Quetta’s officials and government buildings.
Hitting the residence of deputy chief Farrukh Shahzad, the bombs wounded him, killed his wife and injured at least one of his children, security officials said.
“The death toll has gone up and 24 deaths are now confirmed. There were at least 82 people wounded and taken to different hospitals. We have reports that at least seven of them are seriously hurt,” said Shakil.
Flames from the blast engulfed security vehicles and motorcycles parked outside Shahzad’s residence, where paramilitary forces had been waiting to escort the deputy inspector-general to work.
Two children and at least 11 troops from the Frontier Corps and army — including an army officer — were among the dead, Shakil said.
A mosque and official residences nearby were also badly damaged, he said.
Shakil said the car had been packed with 50 kilogrammes of explosives. He said the head of one of the bombers was found, along with an identity card that indicated he could have been from Afghanistan’s Kunduz province.
The Frontier Corps is Pakistan’s paramilitary force. On Monday the army announced the corps had arrested a senior Al-Qaeda leader believed to have been responsible for planning attacks on the United States, Europe and Australia.
Younis al-Mauritani was picked up in the suburbs of Quetta, the main town of Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, along with two other high-ranking operatives, after US and Pakistani spy agencies joined forces.
The army named the two other senior operatives as Abdul Ghaffar al-Shami and Messara al-Shami.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP in a phone call from an undisclosed location that the group was behind the attacks “to avenge the arrest of our mujahedin brothers by Pakistani security forces in Quetta recently”.
Asked whether he was referring to al-Mauritani and two others, he said “Yes.”
“We will launch a bigger attack in future,” Ehsan said.
The arrests signalled another blow to the Al-Qaeda network, four months after its chief Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by covert US forces, leading to a souring of ties between allies Islamabad and Washington.
In a possible thaw in relations, the army hailed cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in the recent arrests, news of which came days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
It did not say when the trio were arrested, but two local security officials said the three men were picked up early last week in a late-night operation in Satellite, an upmarket suburb of Quetta, along with two Pakistanis.
The United States also praised the operation, with a White House spokesman calling it an example of partnership between the two countries “which has taken many terrorists off the battlefield over the past decade”.
Mauritani does not feature on either the US FBI list of most wanted terrorists or the US Treasury Department’s own list of global terrorists.
But Western intelligence officials from two separate countries confirmed Mauritani was part of Al-Qaeda’s top team and linked to threats against Europe.