A large bomb hidden by the Taliban in a rickshaw exploded as a police vehicle passed in southwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing 11 policemen and two civilians, police said.
The bombing on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, came the same day as fighting in the restive northwest left 4 soldiers dead. Police claimed 20 militants also died in those clashes.
The Quetta blast wounded 23 people, said senior police officer Fayaz Sumbal.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press, saying it was revenge for militants killed in the country’s northwest.
The Taliban have been waging a bloody insurgency against the Pakistani government for years that has killed thousands of people. The militants want to impose Islamic law in the country and end the government’s unpopular alliance with the United States.
Baluchistan is home to many Islamic militant groups, as well as separatist insurgents who have been fighting the government for decades.
The rickshaw was packed with around 100 kilograms of explosives and was parked alongside a road in the city. It was detonated by remote control when a vehicle carrying members of the police’s special forces team passed by, said Sumbal.
Eyewitness Irshad Ali said the blast “was so loud, we thought something had fallen from the sky.” Local TV footage showed that the bomb completely destroyed the police vehicle.
The Special Forces unit that was targeted was put together months ago to deal with increasing incidents of kidnappings and shootings in Baluchistan, said Sumbal.
Also Thursday, several militants attacked a Pakistani army checkpoint in Kurram tribal area near the Afghan border, killing four soldiers, said local police officer Mujahid Khan.
The soldiers, backed by gunship helicopter and jet fighters, chased the militants fleeing to their hideouts and killed 20 of them, he said.
Pakistan’s tribal region is home to a wide range of Islamic militants, many of them linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
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