At least four people were killed when a bomb planted in a car went off in the parking lot of a luxury hotel in the volatile Pakistani city of Quetta on Wednesday, police said.
Several cars parked in front of the Serena Hotel caught fire after the bombing, which occurred in the province of Balochistan, police official Mohamed Munir told dpa.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a loose network of Pakistan’s home-grown Islamist militants, claimed responsibility for the bombing which they said sought to target officials.
The TTP, which has close links to al-Qaeda, has in the past targeted, kidnapped and killed Chinese nationals in Pakistan.
At least 12 people injured in the blast were being treated at the city’s civilian hospital, medic Alam Khan said.
Some of them were in critical condition, which means the death toll could rise, Khan said.
The bomb was planted in a car that was parked outside the hotel which is frequented by foreigners, politicians and bureaucrats, Quetta’s police deputy chief Azhar Akram said.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said a Chinese delegation led by the country’s ambassador in Islamabad was the target, but they were not at the hotel at the time of the bombing.
For years, the TTP hosted militants from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group once active in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, in their stronghold on the Afghan border until 2014.
The Pakistani militants were then chased out in a series of offensives by the military.
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but most volatile province. It borders both Afghanistan and Iran and is regularly targeted by Islamist militants, sectarian groups and sub-nationalist rebels.
Much of the violence is seen as a reaction to Beijing’s investment plans in the region to link Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea in Balochistan through a network of roads and rail connections.
The proposed 60-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aims to give Beijing access to markets in the Middle East, Europe and Africa using the shortest overland and sea route.