Lawyers begin nationwide strike a day after suicide attack targeted members of legal community gathered at hospital.
Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 12 people have been killed and 14 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack near the provincial police chief’s office in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, police officials told Al Jazeera.
The explosion on Friday morning struck a police checkpoint near a complex that is housing the Balochistan police chief’s office, local police officer Muhammad Akbar said.
At least six police officers were among those killed, Ali Mardan, a senior police officer, told Al Jazeera.
Initial reports indicated a vehicle approached the checkpoint and explosives were set off when the driver of the vehicle was stopped by the police, provincial government spokesperson Anwar ul-Haq Kakar told local television channel Geo News.
“At 8:45am (03:45 GMT), there was an old car, a Toyota Corolla … that came here near the [police chief’s] office and it was stopped by the police personnel. That is when the blast took place,” he said.
“There was no exchange of fire, but it’s possible that law-enforcement personnel may have fired into the air.”
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent out its spokesperson Asad Mansoor.
Altaf Hussain, local police official, said: “Some of the wounded are still in critical condition. Most are police personnel, as well as a traffic warden.”
“It was a suicide attack. They came to the intersection and then blew themselves up there,” said Hussain.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the Inspector General’s office was the likely target of the attack.
“The attack took place in the red zone, close to the IG’s office as well as the State Bank of Pakistan,” he said.
“Authorities are saying the IG’s office could’ve been the target.”
Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province, has seen frequent attacks targeting government buildings and security forces, as well as civilians.
In February, two bomb disposal squad members were killed and 11 others wounded in an explosion under Quetta’s Saryab bridge, local media reported.
The province has also seen a number of attacks carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Al Alami faction, a group with ties to ISIL, known for attacking Shia Muslims.
The resource-rich province is central to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $56bn trade and infrastructure project that seeks to create a major trade route from southwestern China to the Arabian Sea through the Balochistan port of Gwadar.
Security in Balochistan has been a major concern for CPEC, with separatists regularly attacking workers building road and other projects associated with the corridor.
Earlier this month, two Chinese citizens were kidnapped and killed in the province.
Pakistan has established a Special Security Division comprising 15,000 troops to secure the CPEC corridor and projects associated with it.
The Pakistani government and military have repeatedly blamed neighbours India for fomenting instability in Balochistan, although officials have presented limited evidence to back this claim.
On Thursday, Kulbhashan Yadav, an Indian national who has been convicted and sentenced to death by a military court for funding and planning attacks in Balochistan for the Indian spy agency RAW, submitted a confession and mercy petition to Pakistan’s army chief, the Pakistani military said.