PESHAWAR: Kohat Tunnel, closed following two bomb blasts that ripped through it on Friday, was reopened for 24 hours on Saturday evening.
Commissioner Kohat division Khalid Khan Umerzai told The Express Tribune that the tunnel was opened for passenger vehicles for around 24 hours. Cargo vehicles, however, will not be allowed to pass through the tunnel.
At least five people were killed and 19 others injured when two explosives-laden trucks were detonated by suicide bombers, one inside the tunnel and the other at its entrance. The attackers had entered the tunnel from the Darra Adamkhel side, Umerzai said.
Local sources said that the two attacks that occurred at 12:30am on Saturday, badly damaged the Pak-Japan Friendship Tunnel, which links the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with Peshawar.
They said that the first blast occurred some 600 metres inside the tunnel when a Bedford truck was detonated by a suicide attacker.
The second truck, an oil tanker, was detonated on the checkpost outside the tunnel, unmanned at the time.
According to Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) officials’ estimate, the two trucks carried at least 1,000 kilograms of explosives. Twelve vehicles, including cars, were caught in the blast and destroyed.
“We have sent the material we collected to forensic labs for further analysis,” a BDU official said.
The blast left a three-foot-deep and 18-foot-wide crater inside the tunnel. The electricity, drainage and exhaust systems of the tunnel were also damaged.
The dead include two women Khatma Bibi and Taliba Bibi, residents of Nasapa in Karak district, Badshah Rehman from North Waziristan, and an Afghan refugee. The last person was not identified till last reports came in.
The injured were shifted to the Kohat and Peshawar hospitals following the blasts and senior civilian and military officials rushed to the scene and closed the tunnel for all kinds of traffic.
Kohat Tunnel, also known as Pak-Japan Friendship Tunnel, is Pakistan’s longest road tunnel and the second longest tunnel after the Khojak Tunnel and is situated on Indus Highway. The Rs5 billion tunnel was opened to traffic in June 2003.
This is second time in the past few years that militants have targeted the tunnel. Earlier during Operation Eagle Swoop in January 2007, Taliban militants captured the tunnel and detonated explosives-laden vehicles inside it.
Following that attack, traffic was not allowed to pass through the tunnel at night. The tunnel was reopened to traffic at night only two months back.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2011.