QUETTA, Pakistan — Pakistani forces stormed a hospital that had been taken over by gunmen Saturday in a restive southwestern province, freeing hostages and ending a five-hour standoff that capped a series of attacks that killed 27 people.
The violence emphasized the challenges that new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have in bringing calm to Baluchistan, a region beset by a separatist movement, Taliban militants and violent sectarian groups.
The deadliest attack Saturday took place in the provincial capital of Quetta and appeared to target minority Shiites. A blast ripped through a bus carrying female university students, killing 14 people, said the head of police operations, Fayaz Sumbal.
The victims and bodies were rushed to a nearby hospital. As relatives, rescuers and government officials crowded into the building, a suicide attacker detonated explosives in the corridor leading to the emergency room, Sumbal said.
Other attackers then began firing at the crowd. Soldiers and police commandos rushed to the scene and penned the attackers off into a wing of the hospital, Sumbal said.
As fighting continued into the evening, another loud explosion later determined to be one of the attackers blowing himself up shook the hospital.
A high-ranking government official who had been visiting wounded in the hospital died in the blast, as did two nurses, Sumbal said.
Four soldiers from the country's Frontier Corps also died, said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Police said six attackers were also killed in the fighting.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a group of radical Sunni Muslims, who revile Shiites as heretics, claimed responsibility for the attack on the school bus and the hospital.