IS, Taliban claim Quetta hospital attack that killed 70

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Old 09-Aug-2016
Post IS, Taliban claim Quetta hospital attack that killed 70

The Islamic State has claimed the suicide bombing that killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack on mourners gathered at a hospital in Pakistanís southwestern city of Quetta on Monday, a day after a faction of the Taliban already admitted to having been responsible.

The bomber struck as a crowd of mostly lawyers and journalists crammed into the emergency department to accompany the body of a prominent lawyer who had been shot and killed in the city earlier in the day, Faridullah, a reporter who was among the wounded, told Reuters.

Abdul Rehman Miankhel, a senior official at the government-run Civil Hospital, where the explosion occurred, said more than 112 people were wounded.

Islamic State's Amaq news agency reported the Middle East-based movement was behind the atrocity. If true, it would mark an alarming development for Pakistan, long plagued by Islamist militant violence but most of it locally-based.

"A martyr from the Islamic State detonated his explosive belt at a gathering of justice ministry employees and Pakistani policemen in the city of Quetta," Amaq said.

Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Islamist militant Pakistani Taliban group, earlier said it had carried out the attack. The movement at one time swore fealty to Islamic State's Middle East leadership, but later switched back to the Taliban.

"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA) takes responsibility for this attack, and pledges to continue carrying out such attacks," said spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan in a statement.

Only last week, Jamaat was added to the United States' list of global terrorists, triggering sanctions.

It remains unclear what ties Jamaat retains to Islamic State, whose leadership is a rival to both the Taliban and al Qaeda over claims to represent the true Islamist Caliphate.

In September 2014, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar rejected the Pakistani Taliban during a leadership struggle and swore allegiance to Islamic State, also known as Daesh.

By March 2015, however, the group was again swearing loyalty to the main Pakistani Taliban umbrella leadership. The reason for its return to the fold remains murky, but Jamaat also never specifically disavowed Islamic State either.

The White House condemned the attack. "We remain resolute in joining with the people of Pakistan in confronting terrorism in Pakistan and across the region," it said in a statement.

Monday's attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since an Easter Day bombing ripped through a Lahore park, killing at least 72 people. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar also claimed the bombing.

Quetta has long been regarded as a base for the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership has regularly held meetings there in the past.

In May, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike while travelling to Quetta from the Pakistan-Iran border.

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