Pakistan Taleban claim deadly blast at luxury hotel

QUETTA, PAKISTAN (AFP) – The Pakistan Taleban claimed responsibility yesterday for a deadly bomb blast at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in the southwest of the country, as officials raised the death toll to five.

Beijing said it strongly condemned the attack, although the Taleban said Pakistan security officials were the target of the blast.

The bomb was placed in a car parked at the Serena Hotel – part of a five-star chain popular with diplomats – and detonated late on Wednesday in the city of Quetta, capital of Balochistan province.

Pakistan is fighting several low-level insurgencies in the impoverished province waged by extremist, separatist and sectarian groups.

“The suicide bomber hit the security officials exactly as it was planned,” the spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) said in a statement.

Smoke blows from a burning vehicles at the site of bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Police said the blast came from an improvised explosive device, and security officials and hotel staff were among those killed.

Describing the blast as a “terrorist attack”, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing the Chinese delegation was not present when the bomb detonated.

Agriculture Commissioner at China’s embassy in Pakistan Gu Wenliang told the Chinese newspaper Global Times the bomb had detonated 10 minutes before their expected return.

“I was walking through the car park when I heard a sudden loud sound and the earth shook under my feet,” said a guard at the hotel Khuda Baksh.

“Everyone was running for their lives before I lost consciousness,” he told AFP.

For years the TTP unleashed deadly attacks on urban centres across Pakistan from their bases along the Afghan border, where they provided shelter to an array of global extremist groups including al-Qaeda.

But a massive military offensive launched in 2014 largely destroyed the group’s command and control structure, dramatically reducing insurgent violence throughout Pakistan.