25 dead as bomb hits convoy of Pakistan Senate deputy; more than 35 injured

Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the deputy chairman of the upper house of parliament, says he believed that he was the target.

Pakistan bomb blast
Security officers collect evidence as they investigate crime scene after a bomb exploded next to a convoy of deputy chairman of the Pakistan Senate, Senator Ghafoor Haideri in Mastung, Pakistan, May 12, 2017. Reuters

At least 25 people were killed and more than 35 were injured after a bomb exploded next to a convoy of the deputy chairman of the Pakistan Senate on Friday in the violence-plagued province of Baluchistan. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The group's Amaq news agency said a bomber wearing an explosive vest carried out the attack near the town of Mastung, 50 km (30 miles) from the provincial capital of Quetta. A television footage showed a vehicle mangled by the blast. The attack was condemned by a former local Islamic State affiliate.

Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, the deputy chairman of the upper house of parliament, said minutes after the explosion he believed he was the target and he had sustained minor injuries. "There are many casualties as there were many people in the convoy," he told Reuters by telephone.

Haideri is a member of Jamiat e Ulema Islam, a right-wing Sunni Islamist political party that is part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's coalition government. The district health official Sher Ahmed Satakzai said the death toll had risen to 25 and 10 were in critical condition in hospital.

Mastung police official Ghazanfar Ali Shah said the convoy appeared to have been hit by a suicide bomber. He added that Haideri's driver was among those killed.

According to reports, the senator, who is being treated in hospital, was on his way back to Quetta after distributing graduation certificates to students from a madrassa, or religious academy.

Ever since a crackdown on militancy began in 2014, security in Pakistan has improved. However, a fresh wave of attacks that left more than 100 people dead in February has increased pressure on Sharif's government.

Militant group Lashkar-e-Jangvi Al Alami, which has jointly carried out attacks with Islamic State in the past, including a bombing at a shrine in Baluchistan in November, condemned Friday's suicide attack, spokesman Ali Bin Sufyan said.

Sufyan also added that the two groups have now split due to "policy changes". But, he did not elaborate on what changes had taken place.

Separatist militants in Baluchistan have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich province's resources.

Apart from this, Taliban and other Islamist militants also operate in the province that shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Last year in Baluchistan, a U.S. drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour.

More than 180 lives have been claimed in a series of attacks in the province raising concerns about a growing militant presence. A judicial report released after an attack on the province's lawyers left more than 70 dead criticised security provisions in the region and called for increased clampdowns on extremists.