A bomb disposal officer checks the site of today's blast in Quetta, where at least two journalists were killed. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)
A bomb disposal officer checks the site of today's blast in Quetta, where at least two journalists were killed. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

At least two journalists killed in Quetta blasts

New York, January 10, 2013–At least two journalists were killed and two others seriously injured when a bomb went off near a billiards hall in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, as the journalists were reporting on an explosion that was set off there just minutes earlier, according to local journalists and news reports. Dozens of other people were reported killed in the double bombing, for which the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility.

Samaa TV cameraman Imran Shaikh, reporting from the scene of the first blast, died in the second explosion, according to Samaa TV senior producer Azam Gondal, who confirmed the death to CPJ by phone from Karachi. Saif ur Rehman, a reporter for Samaa TV, suffered serious injuries and died later at a local hospital, according to local news reports. Zahid Hussain, Samaa TV director of news, confirmed the death to CPJ by telephone.

The two blasts were detonated within about 10 minutes, killing dozens, including police, emergency workers, and journalists who had rushed to the scene of the first explosion, according to the reports. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack, The Associated Press reported. Bakar Saddiq, a spokesman for the group, said a suicide bomber carried out the first attack, while the second was a car bomb detonated remotely, according to the AP. The billiards hall is in a predominantly Shia area.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists was reporting the death of a third journalist. CPJ is seeking additional information about the report.

“Double bombings of this kind are particularly hazardous for journalists as they are often among the first responders that the bombers are cynically targeting. These attacks underline the tremendous risks reporters face in covering the news not just in Baluchistan but throughout Pakistan, which has become one of the most dangerous places to be journalist,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “We send our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Imran Shaikh and Saif ur Rehman, as well as the other journalists who sustained injuries today.”

At least two journalists were said to have suffered serious injuries. Jameel Ahmed, a Samaa TV satellite engineer, was hospitalized, according to Gondal and another colleague, Samaa TV reporter Mohammad Ashhad, who spoke with CPJ by telephone. The journalists’ union reported that Mirza Mohammad Hussain, a photographer for Independent News Pakistan, was critically injured. Geo TV, which dispatched a crew to the scene of the first blast, said its journalists escaped with minor injuries when the second explosion went off.

Journalists are frequently caught up in deadly separatist and sectarian violence in Baluchistan, where several factions are vying for control, including some with links to Al-Qaeda. Four journalists were killed there in 2012, making it the most dangerous region in one of the world’s deadliest nations for the press, according to CPJ research. In 2012, Pakistan was the third deadliest country for journalists. The bombings in Quetta were part of a series of bomb attacks reported across Pakistan today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of Zahid Hussain’s name and the full name of Mirza Mohammad Hussain.