Islamabad, Pakistan – A suicide bomb attack near a religious rally at the Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least seven people and wounded several others, according to officials.
Zia Langove, home minister of the southwestern Balochistan province, said Monday’s explosion took place close to the event organised by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ), a political party allegedly linked with a sectarian armed group.
“An attacker came on a motorcycle, and he was stopped by police [near the rally],” Langove told Al Jazeera. “Then, there was an explosion.”
No group has so far claimed responsibility.
Quetta police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema told reporters the attack was being treated as a suicide bombing.
“Instead of stopping, [the attacker] attempted to continue going forward,” he said. “They struggled with him, toppling him and stopping him. As he fell, he detonated himself, which killed two of our men, those who had stopped him … and [others].”
The casualties were taken to Quetta’s main government hospital, about a kilometre (0.6 miles) away from the attack site.
“We have received seven dead bodies and 19 people have been wounded,” Waseem Baig, a hospital spokesperson, said. At least eight of the wounded were in serious condition, he added.
Witnesses corroborated the police version of events, saying the explosion appeared to take place at a police barricade near the rally in the centre of Quetta.
“I was near the explosion. When the blast took place, I ran this way and debris hit me on my back,” said a man who was wounded in the attack and declined to be identified.
“I ran away from there and I don’t know what happened after that. A sudden darkness came and I lost consciousness.”
The ASWJ, a far-right Sunni Muslim political party, has long called for Shia Muslims – who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population – to be declared “non-Muslim” under Pakistani law.
The party has long been associated with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) armed group that targets Shia Muslims across Pakistan, and particularly in Quetta. ASWJ denies the alleged links with LeJ.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim. Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta