Powerful explosion kills nine army soldiers in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan - A powerful explosion ripped through a congested market in southwestern Pakistan late Saturday, killing nine soldiers and injuring 28 people, emergency officials said.

The explosion occurred outside an area where military personnel congregate in Jinnah market in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. The force of the explosion shattered glass in nearby buildings and sent residents running for cover.

There were contradictory reports about the type of explosion. Deputy Commissioner Akhtar Hussain Sayal said the explosion was caused by a bomb attached to a bicycle, while an official at a military-run hospital said it was caused by a rocket.

Police have sealed off the area. All roads in and out of the city have been closed, said Sayal.

At the military hospital, a doctor reached by telephone said that three wards in the hospital were packed with the wounded. He refused to give his name, but said, ''it is like all hell has broken loose on us.''

At the civilian hospital in Quetta, Dr. Shamim Gul said only one of the injured was brought there for treatment. It appeared that most of the wounded were army personnel, who would be treated at the military hospital, she said.

Nasirullah, the lone injured person at the civilian hospital, said he was sipping tea in a nearby hotel when a mighty explosion threw him off his chair. The last thing he said he remembered was something falling on his head.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb, the third in Quetta on Saturday. The earlier explosions occurred behind separate police stations and didn't cause any injuries or damage. Police were investigating all three blasts.

There was no immediate comment from the military, which rules Pakistan.

Within hours of the explosion Baluchistan's Inspector General of Police, Abdul Hai Qadar, was suspended along with two other senior police officials, said the state-run news agency, The Associated Press of Pakistan.

The men were suspended ''because of their failure to apprehend the culprits behind a series of bomb blasts in Quetta,'' said The APP.

A series of explosions have rocked Quetta in recent months. Police officials fear they may be retaliatory bombings by disgruntled tribesmen of the Mari tribe.

The tribesmen have strongly criticized the arrest of one of their leaders in connection with the slaying of a judge.


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