At least nine police officers were killed and 11 others injured in a suspected suicide blast in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province on Monday, authorities said, the latest in a string of recent attacks against security personnel in the South Asian nation.
Kachhi Police senior superintendent Mehmood Notezai said a vehicle carrying policemen was targeted in the province’s Sibi district. “Preliminary evidence suggests it was a suicide attack,” he said, adding an investigation was underway.
The Tehreek e Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a newly formed militant group, later claimed responsibility for the blast.
A statement from TJP sent to CNN confirmed that the group was formed on February 23 in order to “establish an Islamic system in Pakistan” through the use of “armed Jihad.”
This is the first major attack by the group in the country. Pakistan’s interior ministry has not confirmed that the TJP is behind the attack.
Among the officers injured in the incident, three remain in critical condition and are receiving hospital treatment, Sibi’s Combined Military Hospital administration said.
Footage obtained by CNN showed pieces of debris strewn along an isolated highway at the scene of the attack, as authorities scoured the site for evidence.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area, has seen a decades-long insurgency by separatists who demand independence from the country, citing what they say is the state’s monopoly and exploitation of the region’s mineral resources.
The blast Monday was the third major attack against Pakistani security personnel in as many months, highlighting the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country.
At least four people were killed and 14 others injured in February after militants stormed the police headquarters in the southern city of Karachi. Pakistan’s Taliban, known as Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack, according to spokesman Mohammad Khorasani.
And in January, at least 100 people – mostly police officials – died after a suicide bomb ripped through a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, marking one of the deadliest attacks in the country in years.
TTP officials initially claimed the blast was “revenge” for the death of a TTP militant last year before the militant group’s main spokesperson later denied the group was involved in the attack.