45 lose lives in Karachi blasts
* 65 others wounded as two blasts rip through highly populated Abbas Town area
* 50 shops, two banks and hundreds of flats destroyed in attack
KARACHI: A high-intensity blast in a densely populated area of the city claimed at least 45 lives on Sunday, most of the victims being women and children, while 65 people were wounded.
Twin blasts ripped through the highly populated area of Abbas Town, located at Abul Hassan Ispahani Road. Residents of the area said that the powerful explosion was heard several kilometers away and turned multi-storey buildings on both sides of its centre into rubble. Residents of the two apartment blocks in the vicinity of the blast were trapped in the debris of the buildings, while fire broke out in some of the apartments after the explosion.
At least fifty shops, two banks and hundreds of flats were destroyed. Arif Hussain, a resident of an apartment block, said that the residents of adjacent localities were shocked and came out of their houses and apartments. He said that there was huge flame and light was seen in the sky after the blast and thick black smoke rose from the site of the explosion. The injured people were shifted to government and private hospitals.
Ijaz Ali was on the third floor of one of the blocks of flats with his wife and two sons when the bomb went off. “All of a sudden I heard a huge blast and we thought the building was going to collapse – it was like an earthquake,” he told AFP from hospital. “The windows of my flat exploded towards me, something hit my head and knocked me unconscious. I opened my eyes in hospital and I am just relieved that my family survived.”
Sources said that the explosion was so powerful that it blew off the facades of several apartments facing the blast site. Windowpanes of most of the surrounding buildings turned into smithereens and some doors came off the hinges. Law enforcement agencies were unable to reach the blast site for hours; however, residents of the area and rescuers of different welfare organisations rushed to the spot and shifted the victims to different hospitals. The injured were taken to different hospitals, including Patel Hospital, Liaquat National Hospital and Agha Khan Hospital, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Jinnah Postgraduate Medial Center.
Law enforcers, including police and Rangers personnel, avoided getting close to the area because of a violent reaction of the residents there who had started firing shots in the air after the blast. While talking to media, CID SP Aslam Khan said that “we are doing our level best and the terrorists will be arrested soon”. Meanwhile, IGP Fayyaz Laghari said that the terrorists might have used an explosives-leaden vehicle in the attack. He said that experts of the Bomb Disposal Squad and other investigators were trying to determine the nature of the blast.
Police officials initially said that the explosive device was planted inside a motorbike, which was parked in the densely populated area. However, crime scene observation and the scale of destruction showed that a motorbike could not carry the huge quantity of explosive needed to carry out such an attack. Following the blast, electricity went out and the whole area plunged into darkness. The investigators believe that an explosion in an electricity transformer caused the second blast.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah condemned the blast and announced Rs 1.5 million for each bereaved family and Rs 1 million for each injured person. Meanwhile, the Jafria Alliance has announced a strike call for today (Monday), while the MQM, ANP and other political and non-political organisations have announced a day of mourning. Transporters and educational institutions also announced suspension activities.
Karachi is plagued by sectarian, ethnic and political violence, with more than 2,200 people killed in shootings and bombings last year, but major bomb blasts are relatively rare. On Monday a bomb at a Sufi shrine in southern Shikarpur district, some 400 kilometres northeast of Karachi, killed two people and wounded 10 others. The Pakistani Taliban have also increased their campaign of violence in recent months, leading to fears that violence could mar a general election scheduled to take place by mid-May. Last month the group proposed talks with Islamabad, but the government insists the militants must declare a ceasefire before coming to the negotiating table – a condition militants have rejected. danish rafique/agencies