QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A Taliban-linked Pakistani cleric and six of his family members were killed in a powerful explosion at the cleric’s home in a remote southwestern town near the border with Afghanistan, police and a government official said Friday.
According to deputy commissioner Shafqat Shahwali, more than 10 people, including women and children, were also wounded in the Thursday night blast in the town of Qillah Saifullah in Baluchistan province.
The explosion apparently occurred when a bomb or an explosive device was being loaded in a vehicle, said Mohammad Yousaf, the police chief in the town. Yousaf said some of the wounded were in critical condition in hospital.
He identified the slain cleric as Habibullah Khan, who was known for public support of the Afghan Taliban.
However, Khan’s cousin, Khair Mohammad, said the cleric was a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — the Pakistani Taliban. He said the blast also damaged nearby homes.
Mohammad Aslam, a police officer, told reporters that the blast was so strong that rescue workers were pulling body parts from the debris of the house, which had completely collapsed.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, which has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatist groups that demand a greater share of the province’s resources.
The province is also believed to be a hiding place for the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militant groups.