* Security forces make their way into hospital
* Dozens of hostage released, government says
* Baluchistan plagued by sectarian violence, separatist
(Recasts with end of siege, updates casualties)
By Gul Yousafzai
QUETTA, Pakistan, June 15 Militants in a
volatile region of western Pakistan bombed a bus carrying women
students on Saturday and then seized part of the hospital where
survivors were taken, in the first major security test for the
new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
At least 22 people were killed in a day of violence that
started with an apparent separatist attack that destroyed a
summer retreat once used by the nation's founder Muhammad Ali
Jinnah in the hills of Baluchistan province.
A policeman lost his life in the attack on a popular symbol
of Pakistan's history, which was gutted by fire after several
small bombs were detonated.
"Baluchistan is part of Pakistan and we will not leave our
people alone in a time of tragedy," Information Minister Pervaiz
Rashid told reporters in a news conference.
The first attack was quickly followed by a bus bomb on a
university campus in Baluchistan's capital Quetta that killed at
least 14 women students.
The injured were taken to the city's Bolan Medical Complex,
where an ambush by a suicide bomber and an ensuing firefight
with security forces killed at least eight more people.
The government said the Quetta attacks were not connected
with the earlier blasts at the hill retreat.
The violence brought an abrupt end to a period of relative
calm after Pakistan's first ever transition between elected
civilian governments, which brought Sharif to office for the
third time, and highlighted the deep fissures in the nation he
As well as the fragile security situation, Sharif has
inherited a severe energy crisis and a weak economy. He must
also manage a complex relationship with the United States,
including nationwide anger at U.S. drone attacks.
At least 36 were injured in Saturday's violence. Four
militants including two suicide bombers were among the dead at
the hospital, where security forces moved from room to room
freeing trapped patients and doctors, the government said.
Four nurses were also reported dead.
By nightfall, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said
the hospital siege was over, with one suspect captured. Four
members of the security forces were confirmed dead.
The new chief minister in Baluchistan, an ally of Sharif's,
last week vowed to work towards talks to end a long running war
with separatist guerrillas in resource-rich Baluchistan.
In addition to the separatist movement, Quetta is home to
much sectarian violence, much of it targeting the Hazara ethnic
minority, who are Shi'ite Muslims in a largely Sunni country.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the bus
and hospital attacks, or whether they were aimed at the Hazaras.
City police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood told Reuters that the
students on the bus were from various ethnic groups, including
Hazaras, targets of a series of bombings this year. Another
police official said the hospital blast seemed to be aimed at
government officials who had rushed to the scene.
Saturday's attack was the biggest since bombings in the city
at the start of the year killed almost 200 people, briefly
drawing global attention to a growing campaign of victimisation
of the Hazaras by sectarian militants.
Their 500,000-strong community in Quetta has been subjected
to a campaign of shootings and bombings by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
(LEJ), a militant group dedicated to attacking the Shi'ite
The attack on Jinnah's hill retreat in the town of Ziarat
was claimed by the separatist Baluchistan Liberation Army,
Baluchistan's top policeman Mushtaq Sukhera said. Reuters was
unable to contact the insurgents to verify that claim.
Jinnah stayed in the woodland Quaid Azam Residency as he
tried to recover from a lung disease in 1948, a year after his
successful campaign to separate Pakistan from India. He died in
Karachi soon after. The building is a national heritage site.
Several men surrounded the house in the early hours of the
morning before detonating several bombs, local police and an
A policeman died and the ensuing blaze tore through the
two-storey wooden-clad building, destroying historical relics.
Baluchistan is laden with copper and gold deposits that are
largely unexploited. It also supplies much of the natural gas
feeding Pakistan's lifeline textile industry in eastern Punjab
province, and is home to a deepwater port at Gwadar.
Chief Minister Abdul Malik last week called on security
forces, who deny wrongdoing, to end a campaign of enforced
disappearances to support his hopes of kindling dialogue.
(Reporting by Gul Yousafzai, additional reporting by Syed Raza
Hassan; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Michael Perry
and Ron Popeski)