ISLAMABAD: Terror revisited the capital city of Islamabad on early Wednesday morning when a powerful bomb went off at a crowded marketplace, killing at least 24 people and wounding nearly 120 others.
The deadliest bombing occurred at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in I-11 sector of the capital city located at the edge with Rawalpindi. It came a day before the expiry of the extended unilateral ceasefire announced by Pakistani Taliban as part of a shaky peace talks with the government.
Eyewitnesses said the blast sent boxes of fruit and vegetable flying and left a deep crater at the scene. Human flesh, blood soaked clothes, shoes, broken wooden crates of fruit and vegetable littered the blast scene.
Police quickly cordoned off the area and started search operation. “It was an act of terrorism,” said a local police official. He said the explosives were planted in a box of fruit hidden beneath guava boxes and was detonated through a remote controlled device.
The dead and wounded were rushed to hospitals in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. “So far, we received 18 dead and 56 injured in the hospital,” said Dr Javed Akram, vice chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad. He said that nine of the injured at his facility were in very critical condition. “At least 11 bodies were beyond recognition,” he added.
Two dead bodies and 35 injured were taken into Holy Family Hospital, a government facility in Rawalpindi. Another two injured were treated in Rawalpindi’s district headquarters hospital while four wounded were given first aid treatment in a nearby social security hospital.
“Almost all the injured and deceased are adult males, with many sustaining head injuries. The bodies have been shifted to the mortuary and preserved,” said Dr Aisha Eisani, PIMS spokesperson.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan visited the area and directed police authorities to submit inquiry report by Wednesday’s evening. “The investigation is going on here as well as at Sharaqpur where the vehicle with fruit boxes was first loaded. We don’t need to draw conclusions before time. However, the involvement of some suspected hands cannot be ruled out,” Nisar vowed.
He said that mostly poor labour from Pashto speaking areas was targeted in the attack. “I assure you that the government will bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” he said. He assured that government will find the terrorists behind the incident and bring them to justice. He promised that government will compensate the affected families.
At the same time, he fell hard on the previous PPP-led government, claiming that it had bought scanners costing a billion rupees which cannot detect explosives. “Even two of the four scanners did not arrive,” he said while stressing on importance of technology in curbing violence. “We need to set up a transparent system to monitor flow of goods,” he added.
Information minister Pervez Rasheed said that space for terrorists has been squeezing in the country as people blamed for previous attack have distanced themselves from Wednesday’s bloodbath.
Khalid Khattak, inspector general of Islamabad’s police, said that around 1500 to 2000 people were present when the bomb ripped through the marketplace. “About four to five kilogrammes of explosives were in the attack,” he said, adding that it was not humanly possible to check every individual who visited the market.
Earlier, Pakistani Taliban in a statement denied responsibility for the attack. In an email statement sent to reporters, Shahidullah Shahid, Pakistani Taliban spokesman, said: “It is tragic that innocents have been killed in attacks on public places. Such attacks are “haram” (unlawful).” He claimed that hidden elements were responsible for the recent acts of violence in Islamabad and Baluchistan province. “The TTP remains committed to its ceasefire,” he said.
However, inside sources revealed that there was intense rivalry within the ranks of TTP over the issue of ongoing talks with the government. The group opposing talks associate itself with slain Hakimullah Mehsud while the pro-dialogue group is represented by Khan Said Sajna, a senior Taliban commander who was considered as one of the top contenders for the post of TTP chief after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud.
Sources said that during recent meetings of Taliban Shura (decision making body), commanders of Hakimullah group, including Umar Khalid Khurassani, the head of TTP in Mohmand Agency and his close comrade Sajjad Mohmand, stressed on calling off the ceasefire and resumption of violent attacks, the demands which were opposed by Sajna group.
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