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40 killed in Pak in attacks on Shia pilgrims, soldiers

December 30, 2012 17:24 IST

At least 19 people were killed and 25 others injured on Sunday in a car bomb attack that targeted a bus taking Shia pilgrims to Iran in Pakistan's restive southwest, hours after 21 soldiers abducted by Taliban from check posts near Peshawar were gunned down by the militants.

Explosives planted in a car parked by the roadside were detonated by remote control when the bus was passing through Mastung district of Baluchistan province, Deputy Commissioner Tufail Baloch told reporters.

"Nineteen people were killed and 25 more injured," he said.

Other officials said the wounded, many of them with burn injuries, were taken to two hospitals in the provincial capital of Quetta.

Officials of the bomb disposal squad said an estimated 80 kg of explosives were used in the attack.

No group claimed responsibility for the incident though the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been blamed for earlier attacks on Shias in Balochistan.

The vehicle that was targeted was part of a convoy of three buses carrying Shia pilgrims from Lahore, Jhang and Multan in Punjab province, to neighbouring Iran.

The buses were headed for the Taftan border crossing.

Baloch said the buses had been provided an escort in view of earlier attacks on Shia pilgrims.

The route taken by the buses is usually cleared in advance but the attack occurred near a market where several vehicles were parked by the roadside, he said.

The explosion triggered a fire in the bus.

Witnesses said several persons were burnt alive.

Footage on television showed that the bus was reduced to smoldering metal.

Rescue workers were seen removing charred bodies from the vehicle.

The two other buses were slightly damaged by the blast.

Some passengers in the second bus sustained minor injuries.

Security personnel cordoned off the area and carried out a search operation.

On Saturday, seven persons were killed and 50 others wounded when a bus was targeted with a bomb near a railway station in Karachi.

In a separate incident, 21 Pakistani security personnel kidnapped by the Taliban from check posts near Peshawar were gunned down by the militants today, police officials said.

The bullet-riddled bodies of the policemen were found in Jabai area, located a short distance from Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

They were reportedly shot dead at a cricket ground.

Two more kidnapped security personnel escaped and one of them was seriously injured.

One of these personnel alerted local authorities, who found the bodies.

The Taliban had kidnapped 23 personnel of the Levies militia after overrunning three check posts early on Thursday.

Over 200 militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades had attacked the posts.

Two security personnel were killed in the attack.

The attackers, who were wearing uniforms of security forces, had taken away weapons and vehicles from the check posts.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad/Karachi