More than 50 people were killed, and many others were injured in two separate incidents in Pakistan on Friday, September 29, 2023.
In Balochistan province, a suicide bomber targeted a procession marking the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. The attack occurred in Mastung, approximately 40 kilometers south of the provincial capital, Quetta. As people gathered from neighborhood mosques, the bomber detonated a device, causing widespread devastation. Hazoor Bakhsh, a 49-year-old eyewitness, described the chaos and panic that followed the explosion. Local hospitals were inundated with the wounded, prompting provincial authorities to turn to social media for blood donations. The death toll continued to rise throughout the day, reaching 52 fatalities and over 70 injuries, according to Munir Ahmed Shaikh, the deputy inspector-general of Balochistan’s police force.
In another tragic incident, hundreds of kilometers north in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two suicide attackers targeted a mosque. During the ensuing confrontation with mosque security, one attacker detonated his vest, while the other managed to enter the mosque’s hall through a window. The explosion caused the mosque’s roof to collapse, resulting in the deaths of four people.
The Prophet’s birthday celebration is observed by the majority of Islamic sects in Pakistan and worldwide. However, certain denominations view it as an unwarranted innovation.
These incidents come at a challenging time for Pakistan, as the country prepares for an upcoming election, grapples with political unrest, economic challenges, and an increase in militant violence, partly inspired by the Taliban’s resurgence in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021. Balochistan’s information minister, Jan Achakzai, declared a three-day mourning period.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s least populous province, has also witnessed ongoing conflicts involving various militant groups seeking independence or a greater share of the region’s mineral resources.
Pakistan’s Taliban has escalated attacks against military and government targets since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Despite this, the group denied any involvement in the Balochistan attack. Additionally, the regional chapter of the Islamic State group, known as Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), has conducted previous attacks in the area.
In a separate incident, Pakistan’s military reported the deaths of four soldiers while repelling an attempt by TTP militants to infiltrate Balochistan from Afghanistan.