21st October 2013

DERA MURAD JAMALI:     At least seven persons were killed and 16 injured when a passenger train was struck by a bomb explosion in Balochistan’s Naseerabad district on Monday, police said. Asad Gilani, the Home Secretary Balochistan told Dawn.com militants targeted Jaffar Express using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Notal area of Naseerabad district.

“When the train reached Notal, there were huge explosions”, Gilani said. He said the blasts damaged a portion of the railway track and three bogies of train. The train was carrying hundreds of passengers from Punjab province who were returning to Balochistan after Eid holidays.

The Home Secretary said the seven people, including two women, who were killed in the incident were all passengers. He added that the condition of six injured was reported as serious. Riaz Ahmed, Quetta’s Superintendent of Police (Railways) said the bomb was planted on the track which went off when the train reached Notal, adding that three brothers were also among the dead. He further said that Divisional Superintendent Railway and other officials were en route to the blast site in order to file a report over the incident.

Zafar Shah Bukhari, a senior official in the area, also confirmed the bomb attack and death toll. Bukhari said the Jaffar Express was travelling from Rawalpindi to Quetta, the main town of Baluchistan province when the explosion occurred, derailing several bogies. “We have taken the dead bodies and injured to the nearby hospital,” Bukhari said, adding that the condition of six of the injured was critical. Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Malik Baloch strongly condemned the attack at and termed it a terrorist act while ordering the local administration to submit a report over the incident.

The chief minister also instructed the Balochistan government to provide medical treatment to all injured. The incident led to the suspension of railway traffic between Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan. The train service was expected to resume after repair of the damaged track and security clearance, a railway official told Dawn.com on the condition of anonymity.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. However, senior police officials suspected that Baloch rebels were responsible for the attack. The banned Baloch Republican Army is active in the area and has been targeting vital national installations including gas pipelines and power pylons and security forces in the area for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, a relief train carrying more than 100 passengers has reached Quetta from Notal amid tight security. “Police and Frontier Corps personnel patrolled in Bolan Mountains to guard the train carrying passengers,” Superintendent of Police Chaudhry Riaz told reporters at the Quetta Railway Station.

The passengers remained the worst sufferers of blast that targeted passenger train in the troubled Naseerabad district. Most of them were suffering from psychological trauma. “I fell down inside the train when the bomb went off,” Muhammad Khalid, a resident of Punjab’s Chakwal district told Dawn.com.

Railway authorities received the passengers at Quetta Railway Station. They had waited for whole day since there was persistent delay in their evacuation due to looming security threats. “There was destruction everywhere after the blast,” Khalid said. “Still I feel ache in my shoulders since I fell down after the blast,” he added.

Muhammad Shoaib, the Divisional Transport Officer told reporters that the blast had damaged 30 feet railway track. He said 80 per cent repair work was completed and hopefully the train service was likely to be restored on Tuesday morning. Shoaib stated that security was tightened in Bolan and other troubled areas of Balochistan to provide protection to passenger trains.