x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Families identify schoolgirl victims of Pakistani bus attack

At least 25 people were killed on Saturday when militants blew up a bus carrying female students in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and then stormed a hospital where survivors had been taken for treatment.

QUETTA, Pakistan // Weeping relatives gathered yesterday to identify the charred remains of loved ones killed in a double attack in Pakistan's south-west.

At least 25 people were killed on Saturday when militants blew up a bus carrying female students in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and then stormed a hospital where survivors had been taken for treatment.

A Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which is responsible for a string of attacks against Pakistan's Shiite minority, said it was behind both attacks.

A LeJ spokesman said a female suicide bomber struck the bus, a rare tactic in Pakistan, before gunmen attacked the hospital, claiming the strikes were revenge for an operation by security forces this month.

Militants occupied parts of the Bolan Medical Complex in a standoff that lasted several hours and ended when security forces stormed the building, freeing 35 hostages.

Authorities shut down the hospital yesterday, moving patients to another facility, as investigators combed the grisly aftermath of the violence.

The intensity of the blast and subsequent fire reduced the student bus to a blackened skeleton, and outside the mortuary of the Provincial Sandeman Hospital, weeping relatives gathered to identify bodies.

The state of the bodies added confusion to the relatives' grief, as some were given contradictory information about their loved ones.

Mohammad Hamza, 19, said that on Saturday he had been given the body of his sister, only to be told a mistake had been made.

"I came here after someone had given us the information that we had taken the wrong body and my sister's body was still here at hospital, but it is not true," Mr Hamza said. It appeared the body he was given on Saturday was indeed his sister.

An LeJ spokesman called newspaper offices in Quetta late on Saturday to claim the killings.