Separatist militants blew up a historic summer retreat used by Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the resource-rich province of Balochistan after shooting dead a guard in a predawn attack yesterday, officials said.
The attackers, armed with automatic weapons entered the 19th-century wooden Ziarat Residency after midnight and planted several bombs, Ziarat District Commissioner Nadeem Tahir said.
“They shot dead the guard who resisted the intruders,” Tahir said.
Police official Asghar Ali said militants planted several bombs and detonated them by remote control.
“The Ziarat Residency, which had its balcony, floor and front made of wood, has been totally gutted,” he said.
At least four blasts were heard in the town, he said. The building caught fire and it took five hours to bring the blaze under control as Ziarat, a small hill station, has no fire brigade.
A separatist-group later claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We blew up the Ziarat Residency,” Meerak Baluch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army, told reporters in a phone call from undisclosed location. “We dont recognise any Pakistani monument.”
No one has been arrested, officials said.
The vast province contains largely unexplored copper and gold deposits, but has suffered a long-running armed independence movemet.
The attack was the first since new Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik took office last week. He has urged security forces to end abuses and support his hopes of talks with the insurgents, who are seeking an independent homeland.
On the day Malik took oath, five bullet-riddled bodies were found in the province. The discoveries were seen by many as a message that security forces are intent on continuing what rights groups say is a campaign of “kill-and-dump.”