KARACHI: At least 24 people were killed and 113 injured in a powerful blast at the Crime Investigation Department's (CID) Civil Lines office near the Chief Minister's House in Karachi on Thursday.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan swiftly claimed responsibility for what was a rare attack on government security forces in Karachi. According to police sources, the assailants opened fire at the CID office and rammed an explosives-laden Shehzore truck into the building causing a powerful explosion.
The blast was so intense that the three-story CID building was reduced to rubble and a 13-foot crater formed at the site of the explosion. "Around six to seven people arrived with the truck at the CID office and opened fire at the building's gate, killing the watchman," Sajid Ahmad, a witness, said.
"Later they jumped over the walls to get inside the building and open the gate to let the truck inside," he said. Most of the people killed and injured in the attack were CID officers. Many were still buried under the rubble and rescue work continued at the time this report was filed. Rescuers believe that the number of casualties was likely to rise as more bodies were discovered.
The explosion also damaged the electricity supply system, leaving it in complete darkness and rescue workers and firefighters had to use torches which made their work harder. Broken glass littered the area for up to two kilometres from the bomb site, where rescue workers installed search lights in the dark as they dug frantically through the rubble for survivors.
Dozens of vehicles were destroyed and damaged after the attack as ambulances screeched through the streets, ferrying casualties to hospital. The powerful blast also damaged nearby buildings including five-star hotel chains frequented by Westerners, the US consulate and police quarters.
According to Sindh Inspector General of Police Sultan Salahuddin Babar Khattak, 11 people were killed and 83 injured in the incident.
He said it was premature to say who was responsible for the attack. The CID building was used to hold militants in custody, he said, but no important suspect was in detention at the time of the attack. "They hit the building with the car full of explosives," Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza said. Sharmilla Farooqi, spokeswoman for the Sindh government, said five policemen were among the dead.
"We have reports that there may be some women police among the casualties because there was a women's police station inside the building." Emergency was declared at the two state-run hospitals - the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). The CID officers, who were injured in the firing before the explosion, were taken to the Navy hospital.
They were identified as Malik Mazhar, Safdar, Nisar and Riaz. "Three men entered the CID office building along with the truck while two remained outside. The men who entered the building opened fire on the people inside," one of the CID officers, said. "The assailants first crossed the portion of the building where offices of junior officers are located. The offices of higher officials are protected by a wall. That is where they rammed the vehicle and caused the blast," he said.
The CID office building was especially designed for the CID to ensure security. "There were around 100 people inside the building at the time of the blast," he added.