A suicide bomber killed at least 15 people, including a senior judge, when he blew himself up inside a court in southwest Pakistan on Saturday, police said.
Dozens of people were injured in the blast, which officials suspect is linked to a wave of recent suicide attacks in Pakistan blamed on pro-Taliban militants angry at President Pervez Mushaharf's support for the US-led war on terror.
The explosion took place in the compound of district courts, also housing some police offices, in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province bordering insurgency-plagued southern Afghanistan and Iran.
"The bomber entered the courtroom, stood leaning against a wall and detonated," Baluchistan police chief Tariq Khosa told the agency.
Khosa said Judge Wahid Durrani and several lawyers and court officials were among the dead.
"We have found a severed head with a partly undamaged face and we believe it is of the suicide bomber," Khosa said, adding that forensic experts were working on the scene to collect more evidence.
The blast ripped a large hole in the wall, he added.
"At least 15 people have been killed including some lawyers, and around 35 people are wounded," interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema told the agency.
A doctor at Quetta's main hospital said at least ten of the injured were in a critical condition.
"The condition of ten injured is very serious, they have severe burn injuries," said Ahmed Khan. He added other casualties have suffered multiple broken bones and shrapnel wounds.
The local television channel showed the scene of destruction, with policemen collecting limbs and pieces of human flesh from the blood-stained ground of the compound. Broken furniture and debris littered the scene.
The explosion hit when hundreds of people were inside the compound for court cases and police inquiries, as well as those collecting driving licences from an office inside the complex.
In a statement, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz strongly condemned the attack and said such attacks would not weaken the government's resolve in fighting terrorism.
"Killing of innocent lives is against Islam and humanity, and will not go unpunished," he said in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where he was visiting to console the family of a senior police officer killed in a suicide attack late last month.
The sparsely-populated Balochistan province has been troubled by recurring violence blamed on ethnic Baloch rebels demanding greater political rights and a share in the profits from the region's natural resources.
However, Khosa said the latest bombing appeared to follow the same pattern of attacks which has occurred in recent weeks in other cities across the country, blamed on Taliban-lined militants.
Cheema said security had been beefed up across the country following the blast.
Pakistani security forces are already on a high alert in the wake of a wave of recent terrorist attacks.
The Quetta blast was the 6th attack in the past month. The deadliest previous attack was in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province which also borders Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber killed 15 people, mainly police officers.
A day before the Peshawar blast a bomber blew himself up at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad on January 26, killing a guard.
Another bomber killed a policeman in the tribal town of Dera Ismail Khan on January 29.
And a suicide car bomber killed two soldiers in the remote town of Tank this month. Early this month an extremist blew himself up with a hand grenade after a gunbattle with police at Islamabad airport.
Most of the attacks have been blamed on Taliban militants fighting security forces in the Waziristan tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.