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Coordinated Attacks Rock Southwestern Pakistan

Pakistani police officers and volunteers gather at the wreckage of a bus destroyed in a bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan, on Saturday.
Arshad Butt

A bomb ripped through a bus in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 14 students from a women's university in Quetta. Shortly afterward, militants burst into a nearby hospital that was treating the injured. Pakistani security forces stormed the hospital and regained control after a five-hour standoff.

Our original post continues:

A bomb on a bus in Pakistan has killed at least 11 female university students and teachers, and hurt 20 others. Militants later attacked the hospital where the victims were taken.

The assaults in the southwestern city of Quetta followed the destruction by militants of a historic house in the same province that had once been used by Pakistan's founding father.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but Baluch nationalists, Taliban militants and violent sectarian groups have all been blamed for attacks in recent months amid a deadly upsurge of violence in the region.

"It was an improvised explosive device placed in the women university bus," police chief Zubair Mahmood was quoted by the BBC as saying.

NPR's Philip Reeves, reporting from Islamabad, says most of the victims were students and teachers going home after morning classes. He says it's the bloodiest attack since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sworn in just over a week ago.

The second bomb at the hospital wounded at least four people, said Fayaz Sumbal, a senior police officer in Quetta. Philip says militants attacked the hospital and shot dead a senior government official. He says there are reports that militants are holed up inside the hospital.

Pakistan TV reports that a senior Quetta official who had come to visit the victims, Abdul Mansoor Khan, was killed in the standoff. There are fears of more casualties, the BBC says.

The Associated Press reports that television footage of the bus showed a blackened hulk with twisted pieces of metal and articles of women's clothing strewn about.

The bus attack came just hours after a 19th century residence once used by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, considered the father of modern Pakistan, was destroyed by attackers on motorcycles who planted bombs in the house and then set it on fire, senior police officer Asghar Ali Yousufzai was quoted by the AP as saying.

The destruction of the residence, located in the town of Ziarat, about 75 miles north of Quetta, was sure to spark widespread anger.

"This tragedy happened which is a huge national loss," Babar Fateh Yaqoo, the chief secretary of Baluchistan province, said on television. "The people of Ziarat are protesting over this incident."

Update at 5:34 p.m. ET: Security Forces Gain Control Of Hospital

Pakistani security forces stormed the hospital and regained control after a five-hour standoff, during which militants hurled grenades and shot dead a senior government official. NPR's Philip Reeves reports that the authorities killed most of the attackers, while The Associated Press quotes the head of police operations as saying two of them blew themselves up.

It was unclear how many people were injured or killed in the attack. The dead reportedly include several nurses and relatives of people injured by the earlier bus bombing.

AP reports that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility for both attacks. The news agency adds:

"The group said one of their female suicide bombers blew up the bus because it was carrying Shiites, although officials said the bus was also carrying students from other religious and ethnic groups."

Phil says Quetta has seen much violence by Islamist, sectarian and separatist groups, but this attack is worse than most and is causing outrage in Pakistan.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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