Pakistan Mosque Bombing Kills 15


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ISLAMABAD - Authorities in southwestern Pakistan say a powerful bomb blast ripped through a packed mosque during Friday evening prayers, killing at least 15 worshipers and injuring around 20 others.

A senior police official was among those killed in the bombing in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province bordering Iran and Afghanistan.

A senior provincial police official, Abdul Razzaq Cheema, told reporters most of the victims were civilians. An investigation into the deadly attack was underway but it was not immediately known whether the slain officer was the target, Cheema added.

Doctors said the death toll could rise because some of the wounded were brought to Quetta hospitals in "critical condition."

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, saying it was carried out by a suicide bomber. IS claimed the blast caused 60 casualties, including 20 dead, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which provides alerts and translations of jihadist threats.

On Tuesday, a bomb went off near a security personnel vehicle in Quetta, killing at least two people and injuring 14 others. The explosives were planted in a motorcycle parked on a main road in the city. Hizbul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, took credit for that attack.

Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but sparsely populated province, is rich in mineral resources and has routinely experienced militant violence.

The province is home to a separatist Baluch insurgency and it allegedly also shelters Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters in areas hosting hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.

Pakistani security officials, however, say sustained counter-militancy operations have significantly improved the law and order situation in Baluchistan in recent years.

The province is at the center of major infrastructure, transportation and power generation projects being built under the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) collaboration, a flagship of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative.