KARACHI/PAKISTAN: Despite elaborate announcements of enhanced security, three terror attacks on two Imambargahs, in Karachi and later in Rawalpindi, on Wednesday claimed at least 12 lives – sending a wave of fear through the country regarding further attacks as Muharram crescendos over the weekend.
Over two dozen people were injured in Wednesday’s attacks.
Karachi witnessed a twin blast at Jamia Masjid-o-Imambargah Haider-o-Karrar in the Orangi Town neighbourhood. Two lives were lost, given that there was no congregation at the Imambargah at the time of the first or the second blast.
Rawalpindi, however, was not as lucky.
At least ten people were killed and over 15 injured when a suicide bomber struck a Muharram procession at Qasr-e-Shabir Imambargah on Dhok Seyadan road late Wednesday night.
Rescue 1122 officials said the toll could increase as the number of critically injured was high.
The blast occurred when the procession, consisting of hundreds of people, was gathered outside the Imambargah. Till the filing of this report, rescue activities were underway.
The army was called to the site to assist police. Police officials claimed they recovered hand grenades from near the Imambargah. They also held some suspects from the site, they said.
Like in Karachi, security in the twin cities was on high alert for the last 24 hours. Imambargahs and Muharram processions had been provided special police and Rangers’ security cover.
With Sunday’s blast that claimed three lives still fresh in the memories of Karachi’s residents, twin blasts near another Imambargah claimed at least two lives on Wednesday.
This time around, the blasts targeted Jamia Masjid-o-Imambargah Haider-o-Karrar in the Orangi Town neighbourhood in spite of security measures in place around the site. No clear picture of events emerged by the time this report was filed and conflicting accounts kept coming in from different official quarters.
Soon after the first blast, at 6:15pm, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Javed Odho maintained a rickshaw’s CNG cylinder had exploded. However, eyewitnesses claimed that a suicide bomber had collided with the rickshaw, 20 feet away from the Imambargah, and detonated his device. Later, reports ruled out the suicide bomber, but postulated that the explosive device had been planted on a motorcycle.
About 40 minutes later, a second bomb went off, planted beside the main-gate of the Imambargah.
BDS officials maintained they had carried out a routine search of the Imambargah the previous day. The search, however, failed to detect the presence of any explosives – even the bomb used in the second blast, which was planted next to the gate. Either the search was flawed, or the device was planted today.
Earlier directives had also prohibited motorcycles within half a kilometer of any place of worship. The directives, however, were not enforced, despite a heavy Rangers presence in the area. Even the motorcycle repair shops, which dot the vicinity of the Imambargah, were open despite directives for them to be closed.
Rangers officials at the site maintained they were focusing on a nearby Muharram procession. They added that directives regarding motorcycles and motorcycle shops had been relaxed since there was no congregation present at the Imambargah at the time.
The first blast claimed at least two lives and injured three others. According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital medico-legal officer Dr Zahoor Ahmad, the death toll could include one more life since some of the remains they received were unaccounted for.
Ten people were injured in the second blast, including two journalists and two Shifa welfare volunteers. Dr Ahmad added that most were out of danger. Only three, he said, were seriously wounded.