At least 40 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded Friday in four separate bomb and gun attacks in three major Pakistani cities, officials said.
A suicide bomber was involved in the first car bombing, near the office of the provincial police chief in the southwestern city of Quetta, which killed at least 12 people and wounded 20. There were conflicting claims of responsibility for this attack from different terror groups.
Hours later, twin bombings, minutes apart, hit a crowded market in a Shiite-dominated city in Parachinar, the main city in the Kurram tribal region, killing 24 people, mostly minority Shiite Muslims, according to government administrator Zahid Hussain.
Friday evening, gunmen in the port city of Karachi attacked police officers at a roadside restaurant and killed four of them before fleeing, according to senior police officer Asif Ahmed.
The bomb and gun attacks come a few days before the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, which ends the month of Ramadan.
Hussain said a severed head of a man was found near the scene of blasts, indicating that the second attack in Parachinar might have been carried out by a suicide bomber, but officers are still investigating to determine the exact nature of bombings.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attacks, saying terrorists were attacking soft targets.
Friday’s car bombing in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, was powerful enough that it was heard across the city, shattering windows on nearby buildings, said police spokesman Shahzada Farhat.
Hours after the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility. Asad Mansoor, the group’s spokesman, vowed more such attacks as part of the group’s campaign aimed at imposing Islamic laws in the country.
Later Friday, the Islamic State group said in a competing claim that it was behind the attack, adding that one of its followers targeted the police post in Quetta, detonating his suicide belt there. It also released a photograph of the alleged attacker, identified as Abu Othman al-Khorasani.
Anwarul Haq Kakar, a spokesman for the provincial government, blamed neighboring India for the blast but offered no evidence to back up the allegation.
Pakistan and India routinely trade charges of interference and inciting attacks on one another’s soil.
On Thursday, Pakistan said that an Indian naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and sabotage, had petitioned for mercy.
Jadhav, who Pakistan said had crossed into Baluchistan from neighboring Iran, was arrested in March 2016 and sentenced to death in April.
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs insisted that Jadhav was sentenced on “concocted charges” and expressed doubts about the existence of the petition for mercy. It also reiterated that the proceedings against Jadhav have been shrouded “in opacity.”
Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists and separatists, who want a bigger share of the regional resources or outright independence, but there have also been attacks blamed on the Pakistani Taliban and others. Those terror groups include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is considered a close ally of IS, as well as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which has taken credit for several previous attacks in Baluchistan and elsewhere and has bases in Pakistan’s tribal regions.