Karachi, April 22: A powerful bomb blast in the parking area of a luxury hotel in the restive southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least five persons and injured 12 others, authorities have said, dismissing reports that the Chinese Ambassador was present in the building when the explosion occurred.
The blast took place in the parking lot of the Serena Hotel in Quetta on Wednesday night. Several vehicles parked in the area caught fire after the blast. According to some initial reports, the hotel was hosting Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong.
Quetta is the capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province.
Initial investigation has revealed the blast was caused when explosive material, fitted inside a car was detonated, said police.
A fire brigade immediately arrived at the parking area to douse the flames. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire.
The windowpanes of nearby Balochistan Assembly, High Court and other buildings were smashed due to the impact of the blast.
The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the blast.
A spokesman for the TTP said, "Our suicide bomber used his explosive-filled car in the hotel."
However, police said that the initial investigation revealed that the explosive device was planted in a car that was parked in the hotel's parking area.
Inspector General of Balochistan Muhammad Tahir Rai said that police were still gauging the intensity of the blast.
In response to a question, he said no ambassador or members of a foreign delegation were staying at the hotel when the blast occurred.
"I can confirm that the Chinese ambassador was not present in the hotel at the time of the blast and it is an apparent attempt to spread terror and chaos in the province," he said.
Rai said the experts in the police force were conducting their investigation, adding that they would soon make public the findings of the probe.
Rai said that around 90kgs of explosive material was used in the blast. He confirmed a police officer who was on duty at the hotel was also killed in the blast.
Addressing a press conference after the incident, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said that there was a wave of terrorism in the region.
He said that there were no threat alerts before the attack.
Responding to media reports about the Chinese ambassador Nong being the apparent target of the attack, Langove said that the ambassador was not present at the hotel when the explosion occurred.
"I have just met the Chinese ambassador and he is in high spirits," he said, adding that the investigation will ascertain the target.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said the incident was being investigated from all angles. "Those involved will not be able to escape the grip of the law," he tweeted.
The Chinese ambassador had earlier in the day met provincial chief minister Jam Kamal Khan in the city, according to a tweet from Shahwani.
There was no immediate comment from China's embassy in Pakistan.
The Serena Hotel is the only four-star hotel in the city and is frequented by Chinese nationals and other dignitaries who visit Quetta.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday condemned the incident, calling it a "cowardly terrorist attack".
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of innocent lives in the condemnable and cowardly terrorist attack in Quetta. Our nation has made great sacrifices in defeating terrorism and we will not allow this scourge to rise again. We remain alert to all internal and external threats," he said.
The resource-rich Balochistan province is home to several armed groups, including Islamic extremists and separatists.
Militants are seeking independence from the rest of Pakistan, and oppose major Chinese infrastructure projects in the area.
The separatists were also blamed for an attack two years ago on a luxury hotel at Gwadar where a major port project is being funded by China.
In October last year, at least 14 people including seven frontier corp soldiers and seven private security guards were killed when militants attacked a convoy of the state-run Oil & Gas Development Company Ltd on the Makran Coastal Highway in Ormara in the province.
The convoy was on its way to Karachi from Gwadar when it came under attack. - PTI