An explosive-laden vehicle rammed a bus carrying mostly Shia pilgrims returning from Iran on Wednesday evening on the outskirts of Quetta, killing at least two persons and injuring over 30.

Eyewitnesses saw the bus burst into flames after a deafening explosion in the Akhtarabad area on Qambrani road. Most of the injured are women and children, news reports said.

Saleem Shahid of Dawn told The Hindu on the phone that the bus could be carrying about 45 pilgrims, mostly belonging to the Hazara community returning after visiting religious places in Iran. Some of the passengers were rescued by local people.

He said the bus was being escorted by police and the Anti-Terror Force and police confirmed that six of the injured were security personnel, while eight were women.

News reports quoted the police as saying that it was a sectarian attack since most of the pilgrims were Shias. The death toll could rise as about seven or eight of the injured are in a critical condition. This is not the first time a bus with pilgrims has been targeted by terrorists.