Six killed by blast at pro-Palestinian rally in southwest Pakistan

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A damaged vehicle at the site of a bomb blast during a pro-Palestinian rally Friday in Chaman in Pakistan's Balochistan province

A bomb blast Friday at a pro-Palestinian rally killed at least six people and injured 14 in a Pakistani city bordering Afghanistan, officials said, in the latest violence to hit the restive area.

Senior local police official Ahmad Mohiuddin said explosives were packed into a motorbike parked near the vehicle of a religious leader taking part in the rally in Chaman, Balochistan province.

Pictures from the scene showed broken glass, rubble, and blood stains.

"It was an improvised explosive device which went off as participants began to disperse," added Tariq Mengal, a senior local administration official.

No group has claimed responsibility.

Thousands of people rallied across Pakistan Friday in support of Palestinians, hours after a ceasefire was announced between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group which governs the Gaza Strip.

The rallies followed Friday prayers which usually draw huge crowds to mosques where firebrand sermons have in the past catalysed protests.

Demonstrators could be seen waving signs that said "Free Palestine", while a major road connecting the capital Islamabad to the neighbouring city Rawalpindi was blocked.

Attacks on religious gatherings are quite common in Pakistan, where preachers often rub shoulders and lend support to politicians enmeshed in bare-knuckle disputes with a host of rivals.

Friday's Chaman blast comes just weeks after a suicide bombing in the Balochistan capital Quetta at a luxury hotel where the Chinese ambassador was being hosted.

That attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

"Terrorists do not deserve any leniency. We will not allow them to create lawlessness in any province," said Balochistan's chief minister Jam Kamal Khan in the wake of Friday's blast.

Chaman has long served as a gateway for Afghan Taliban militants entering Afghanistan from their alleged shelters in Balochistan, where the group's leadership council is believed to be based.

Pakistan is fighting several low-level insurgencies in the impoverished province, waged by Islamist, separatist and sectarian groups.

Balochistan is Pakistan's largest and poorest province despite being rich in natural resources.

Resentment has been fuelled by billions of dollars of Chinese money flowing into the region through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor -- a key part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative -- which locals say has given them little benefit as most new jobs go to outsiders.

The corridor seeks to connect China's western region of Xinjiang with Gwadar, giving Beijing access to the Arabian Sea.

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