Separate attacks in Pakistan kill dozens, destroy national shrine

Naseer Ahmed/Reuters - A paramilitary soldier stands near a burning bus at the site of a bomb blast in Quetta on Saturday.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan’s leaders faced a fresh crisis Saturday after two separate attacks in which militant groups destroyed a national monument honoring the country’s founder and bombed a bus carrying female college students as well as the hospital they were taken to, and then took over part of the hospital in a battle that raged for hours.

The attacks in the restive Baluchistan province rattled residents across Pakistan and seemed likely to escalate decades of turmoil in the southwestern part of the country. In all, about two dozen people were killed Saturday.

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Saturday’s violence began when separatists detonated bombs at the onetime home of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The house became a national monument and museum that contained treasured artifacts honoring the country’s separation from India a year before Jinnah’s death.

A police officer was killed trying to defend the museum, which was destroyed in the blast, authorities said. The Baluchistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

A few hours after that attack, a bomb was detonated in the provincial capital of Quetta, on a bus carrying students to Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, the area’s only all-women’s college.

“The bus was ready to take female students when the bomb went off and engulfed the whole bus,” said Fayaz Sumbal, deputy inspector for local police operations. “Six students were killed at the spot, and five others expired later.”

More than a dozen students were wounded in the explosion. When they were transported to nearby Dolan Medical College for treatment, another explosion tore through the emergency department as doctors struggled to treat the victims, officials said.

Armed militants then forced their way into the hospital, taking up positions on the rooftops and exchanging gunfire with police and military commandos, according to local media reports and the Associated Press.

The battle lasted for hours, ending around sunset after several of the attackers were killed or captured, according to Pakistan’s interior minister.

Abdul Mansoor Kakar, Quetta’s deputy commissioner, who had rushed to the hospital after learning of the bus bombing, was killed in the explosion at the hospital, officials said.

Four nurses and at least four Pakistani soldiers were also killed in the blast and ensuing gun battle, officials said.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a hard-line Sunni militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the bus bombing and hospital siege. The militant group said the attack was revenge for the recent killing of militants near Quetta.

Craig reported from Kabul. Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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