At least 14 people have been killed following a powerful bomb blast near a polio centre in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Twenty-three people were injured, eight of them critically.
The suicide bomber targeted security forces just outside a polio vaccination centre in the provincial capital of Balochistan. "The blast was apparently carried out by a suicide bomber," Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters. He said it was an attempt by extremists to destabilise the volatile Balochistan region, adding: "We will not bow down before terrorists."
"We were living in a conflict zone and hostile agencies were targeting us. It is a conflict zone and hostile agencies have been carrying out sabotage acts after China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other mega projects were announced in the region," Bugti added.
About 8 kg of explosives may have been used by the militants, authorities say. The blast was so powerful that it damaged nearby buildings. The wounded were taken to the Civil Hospital in Quetta.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri condemned the incident and ordered an investigation. Today, 13 January, was the last day of the three-day anti-polio campaign taking place across Balochistan province. The vaccination programme in Quetta has been suspended following the explosion.
It was unclear if the polio centre itself was the actual target of the attack. Similar vaccination programmes have previously come under attack from the Taliban and other Islamist groups. Extremists they say the vaccination programmes are "un-Islamic". Some also suspect they are used for espionage by foreign forces.