Karachi: At least 45 people died and another 70 were injured in a huge explosion that ripped through a Shia-majority neighbourhood in Karachi on Sunday evening. Three relatives of Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza and several women and children were among the victims.
Worshippers were offering Maghribain prayers at an Imambargah in Abbas Town when the bomb went off, Sachal police said. The explosion that was heard miles away left some 170 flats, 70 shops and several vehicles gutted. The electricity supply to the area was also suspended as a pole-mounted transformer exploded after the blast.
On November 18 last year, a bomb blast near the Imambargah Mustafa in the same locality had left two men dead and several others wounded.The bomb went off at the entrance to Abbas Town. Two residential apartment complexes – Rabia Flowers and Iqra City – were badly damaged. Many apartments in the blocks also caught fire and several residents were critically wounded.
Volunteers started shifting the bodies and injured people to hospitals and rescue workers were called in.
Nine unidentified bodies and 15 fifteen injured were taken to the Patel Hospital; 10 bodies and 11 injured were shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH); three bodies each were shifted to the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) and Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) while two more were taken to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), according to hospital sources.
JPMC director Dr Seemin Jamali said 22 people were brought dead while 11 others were injured. The Bomb Disposal Squad was also called in at the hospital due to security threats at the mortuary, she said.
Enraged citizens initially stopped the law enforcers from entering the neighbourhood, according to a senior police official. Fire tenders arrived at the spot to extinguish the fires that had erupted after the massive blast. The staff of the Karachi Electric Supply Company and Sui Sothern Gas Company restored electricity and gas supply. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation also sent in heavy machinery to remove the debris from the road.
Terrorists used a remote-controlled, vehicle-based improvised explosive device (VBIED) weighing about 150kgs, which also contained ball bearings, Sindh IGP Fayyaz Leghari told The News quoting an initial report from the bomb disposal experts. The explosion left a crater four feet deep and 10 feet in diameter at the site causing destruction up to 700 metres away.
The IGP suspected the involvement of banned outfits the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in collaboration with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).Since last year, police have foiled several terrorist attempts in Karachi and around 245 improvised explosive devices were defused, including another VBIED and a bomb planted in a QingQi rickshaw, Leghari said.
To investigate the blast, a committee under the supervision of the Crime Investigation
Department AIG Shabbir Sheikh with the Central Intelligence Agency DIG, DIG East, SSPs of CID, Special Investigation Unit Karachi and district police officers as members has been formed, the IGP said.
After the explosion, members of the Shia-community took to the streets against the law enforcers and the government, demanding the arrest of the killers.Mourners gathered at MA Jinnah Road, Ancholi, Rizvia Society and Abbas Town. A bus was set ablaze on MA Jinnah Road. The situation in many areas was tense as investigators started collecting evidence from the site. They found the engine of the car used in the attack.
The Sindh police chief claimed that the terrorists involved in the Abbas Town blast later shot dead three policemen on the Karachi-Hyderabad highway as they were making their way out of the area.
Sub-Inspector Shameem, Head Constable Mohsin and Constable Allah Bux were killed at a check post on Super Highway by unidentified attackers. Their bodies were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital
Sachal SHO Azhar Iqbal said the policemen were snap-checking vehicles when they were sprayed with bullets. Shameem and Allah Bux were posted with the motorway police while Mohsin worked at the Sachal police station.
Agencies add: “It was a powerful blast in a congested Shia-dominated area,” said senior police official Shabir Ahmad Sheikh.“The explosion was so massive it jolted the entire area,” said witness Ali Reza. Another witness, Muhammad Kazim, said women and children who were shopping nearby were wounded.
“There are many teashops and eateries in the area so we fear the casualties might rise,” police said.“It was a powerful explosion that blew off the facades of several flats facing the explosion site. Windowpanes of most of the surrounding buildings turned into smithereens. Even some doors came off their hinges,” they added.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the blast. The president called for a report of the incident.Expressing sympathies with the bereaved families, the president directed the authorities concerned to ensure that the best medical treatment was provided to the injured.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf also condemned the blast. The prime minister, who was in Karachi, asked the local administration to coordinate relief activities so that those injured could be evacuated and provided immediate medical treatment. He also ordered an inquiry into the incident and directed the authorities to submit a comprehensive report in this regard.
The prime minister said that those targeting innocent civilians were serving the interests of anti-state and anti-social elements.Meanwhile, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan met Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf at the Governor’s House here on Sunday.
The governor briefed the prime minister about the blasts in Abbas Town and the relief and rescue activities being undertaken.Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah has strongly condemned the blast at Abbas Town at Abul Hasan Ispahani Road here on Sunday. He directed the Sindh Health Secretary for arrangement for the treatment of the injured.
The chief minister announced a compensation of Rs1.5 million each for those who lost their lives and Rs1 million each for those who sustained injuries. In separate statements, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Jafriya Alliance and Quaid-e-Millat Jafariya Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi strongly condemned the act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the association of private schools on Sunday announced the closure of schools on Monday (today). The decision has been made due to the situation occurring after the twin blast at the Abul Hassan Ispahani Road, Chairman of the Private Schools Management Association (PSMA), Sharaf uz Zaman, said.
According to him, schools affiliated with the PSMA would remain closed on Monday (today). “The current situation does not allow us to open educational institutions and the association would review the situation on Monday to take a decision whether schools should open or remain closed on Tuesday”, he further said.
The chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association, Syed Khalid Shah, also declared that schools would remain closed on Monday.
Wounded yet seething with rage
By Ammar Shahbazi
Karachi: Even the stinging pain of their injuries was not enough to suppress the rage that was building up inside them. “Kill them [the injured] too, kill them all. How many of us will you kill?” shouted Faheem, who, despite bleeding profusely because of a shrapnel injury to his arm, was eager to help others at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
Faheem was one the dozens being rushed to the hospital following the bomb blast in the Shia-dominated area of Abbas Town on Sunday.