A suicide bombing of a police truck in southwestern Pakistan early Wednesday killed at least four people and injured 24 others, mostly police officers.
The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
Ghulam Azfer Mehser, a top provincial police officer, told reporters a suicide bomber rammed his auto-ricksha into a truck transporting policemen on their way to protect medical workers administering polio vaccines.
The ensuing powerful blast toppled the truck into a roadside ravine and damaged two nearby vehicles, injuring four civilians, the officer said. “Remains of a suicide bomber have been found near the crime scene,” Mehser added.
The bombing happened two days after the TTP announced it was resuming nationwide attacks in retaliation for military operations against its fighters, dumping a shaky unilateral truce with the Pakistan government.
The TTP, listed as a global terrorist group by the United States and the United Nations, is an offshoot and ally of Afghanistan’s ruling Islamist Taliban. The group’s leadership has long taken refuge in the conflict-ridden neighboring country and directs cross-border attacks from there, according to Pakistani officials.
Wednesday’s attack in Quetta came amid an ongoing nationwide anti-polio drive to inoculate children under five years of age against the crippling disease in dozens of high-risk districts, including Baluchistan. The five-day campaign was rolled out on Monday.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while condemning the attack on the police vehicle, said “evil elements" would never succeed in harming the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan.
The South Asian nation of about 220 million people has experienced a resurgence in wild poliovirus cases, particularly in northwestern districts near the Afghan border, paralyzing 20 children so far this year. That compares to just one polio case reported in 2021.
Pakistan has repeatedly come close to eradicating polio but deadly militant attacks on vaccinators in recent years and long-running propaganda in conservative rural parts of the country that the vaccines cause sterility has setback the mission.