Pakistan investigates March 3 Karachi bombing

A massive residential-area bombing killed at least 48 people and injured 125 others, officials said.

By Zia Ur Rehman

2013-03-04

KARACHI – A six-member team headed by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Additional Inspector General Shabbir Sheikh is investigating the March 3 bombing in Karachi's Shia-dominated Abbas Town area that killed at least 48 people and injured another 125.

So far nobody has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but police suspect the outlawed sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

"Various CID teams have detained several suspects in Pehalwan Goth, Gulistan-e-Johar and the Shah Faisal Colony areas of Karachi and are interrogating them," Fayyaz Khan, a senior CID official, told Central Asia Online.

The Asif Choto group of the LeJ is involved, he said. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik also blamed LeJ. "It's the Punjab Taliban, also known as [LeJ], who carried out [earlier] bombings in Quetta and now in Karachi," he said after visiting injured survivors. Authorities recently have apprehended more than 30 LeJ members in Karachi alone, he said.

Blast widely condemned

Pakistani officials and religious leaders called the attack a "barbaric and un-Islamic act."

President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack and, expressing sympathies with the bereaved families, directed authorities to ensure the best medical treatment for wounded survivors.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who was visiting Karachi, suspended all his official engagements and remained in constant touch with the local administration overseeing the rescue operation, a March 3 press release said. Ashraf also met with Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad to offer his assistance in aiding the victims.

Terrorists who play with innocent lives are an "open enemy of humanity," Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain said in a statement.

The Awami National Party (ANP) urged political and religious parties to forget their differences and to adopt a unanimous policy against extremism and terrorism.

"We cannot get rid of extremism and terrorism until each and every stakeholder plays its due role," said ANP President Asfandyar Wali.

Karachi residents observed a peaceful day of mourning March 4 to show solidarity with the victims' families.

On March 3, various Shia groups, including Majlis-e-Wehdat Muslimeen, called for a day of mourning, with the Sindh government and political parties later endorsing the calls.

Public transportation, shopping centres, gas stations and educational institutions closed March 4 while law enforcement personnel patrolled the city's streets, and the Sindh Assembly postponed its schedule for that day.

Attack targeted Shia mosque

Terrorists March 3 remotely detonated a 150kg bomb with ball bearings planted on a motorcycle outside a Shia mosque as evening prayers were ending in densely populated Abbas Town, police said.

"The blast was so powerful that it had an impact radius of about 700 metres," Qamar Ahmed, a local policeman, told Central Asia Online.

The scores of victims included four close relatives of Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza and three police officers.

The blast damaged more than 150 flats, Ali Mujtaba, a volunteer involved in the rescue work, told Central Asia Online, adding: "Many of the people died in their apartments."

The Sindh government will rebuild the flats and shops, Ebad announced. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah announced Rs. 1.5m (US $15,285) in compensation for each bereaved family and Rs. 1m (US $10,190) per injured.

Authorities have set up blood and charity donation sites throughout the city.

Sectarian violence on rise in Karachi

The attack comes as Pakistan wrestles with growing sectarian violence.

Last year, the number of sectarian attacks and clashes climbed by 47% to 208 in Pakistan, according to the annual Pakistan Security Report by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). Sindh Province, though, witnessed a more severe spike: a 137% increase in such sectarian incidents and a 128% increase in resulting fatalities in 2012, the report said.

Thus year, this year has seen a rise in sectarianism-related killings with students and teachers of religious seminaries, activists and sympathisers of sectarian religious groups, and professionals becoming key targets, said Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based security analyst.

The Abbas Town blast was the third devastating bombing against the Shia minority in Pakistan this year. The LeJ claimed responsibility for January 10 and February 16 bombings that combined to kill nearly 180 people in Quetta.

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