At least four people were killed and 56 others injured in two separate bomb attacks on Pakistan Navy buses early Tuesday morning.
The first attack took place in Defence Phase II around 7:30am when a navy bus carrying 50 personnel left the Basralane Colony, a residential area that houses mid-level navy officers. The bus had barely travelled 100 yards when a bomb planted on a motorcycle parked along the way went off.
Two navy personnel including Sub Lieutenant Iqbal and lady doctor Shazia died in the blast, while 37 others were injured, said Pakistan Navy spokesman Commander Salman Ali.
The second bus carrying 35 naval personnel was hit by a roadside bomb on Northern Bypass, near Baldia Town around 7:45 am. At least two navy men, including Pakistan Navy sailor Umar Farooq and a civilian employee Muhammad Sharif, were killed and 19 others were injured.
The authorities were able to recover and defuse another bomb, weighing around 10 kilogrammes, planted close to where the second blast happened.
The bus, bearing registration number JP-1270, was heading to Baldia Town Naval Unit after picking up naval personnel.
The injured and deceased from the Defence blast were rushed to the Pakisan Navy’s Shifa hospital. Sources say three officers, including one lieutenant and two lieutenant commanders, are in critical condition at the hospital.
Meanwhile, locals helped authorities shift the injured in their private vehicles to a nearby hospital from the Baldia blast site.
Both the blast sites were cordoned off by the security forces for securing evidence.
According to the spokesperson, senior Pakistan Navy officials visited PN Shifa hospital. A probe into the two incidents has also been ordered by the Naval Headquarters.
SSP Special Investigation Unit Raja Umer Khattab, who was on location at the Defence blast, said both the bombs were planted and detonated remotely.
Official sources in the Navy say the detonator used in the Defence blast was made locally while the one used in the Baldia blast was American made.
“One bomb was attached to a motorcycle parked on the route of the navy bus in Defence Phase II while the other two bombs were planted under concrete blocks in Baldia Town,” Khattab said. One of the bombs in Baldia was recovered intact and successfully defused. He said that no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.
Investigators say that the extremely well planned blasts had been set off by someone who was near the blast site.
Both attacks appear to be conducted by the same group, said Capital City Police Officer, Karachi Saud Mirza while talking to The Express Tribune.
“Initial examination suggests that the bomb used in the Baldia blast weighed around two-and-a-half kilogrammes and was locally produced. Both blasts were remote controlled and might be connected with mobile devices,” he said.
Mirza said the bombs used in the two attacks were similar to those used in the Ashura and Chehlum processions two years back.
“It might be that the group behind the Ashura and Chehlum procession attacks is also involved in these twin blasts,” he said, adding it would premature to assert anything, given the investigation was underway.”
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, accompanied by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sindh Fayyaz Leghari, also visited the blast sites and said: “We had already received threats about such terror activities and the government was taking serious measures to pre-empt them.”
Official sources in the navy also say intelligence agencies had issued an alert on April 24 that the Pakistan navy, army or air force personnel may come under attack in Karachi and advised them to take strict precautionary measures.
The navy spokesperson Commander Salman Ali, however, denied receiving such information.
“I do not know about the threats of terrorist activity. The provincial government claimed that they already received threats [but] they did not share the information with us,” he said.
He said they frequently receive threats but such attacks are difficult to avoid.
The naval security guards were also on the bus with arms and ammunition but they could do little in a sudden attack, he added.
The assaults took place despite stringent security measures being in place. Both buses, for instance, were carrying private number plates due to security concerns but the attackers appear to have prior information about the movement of the buses.
However, sources said the Baldia blast occurred due to a glaring security lapse. The routes of vehicles are checked every two days but the concrete blocks, under which the bombs were planted, were placed on the route two days ago and had not been removed by the authorities.
IGP Leghari said the investigators will take at least two to three days to compile the initial report, adding that two separate investigation teams have been formed to probe each site of the attack separately.
Meanwhile, the police arrested the owner of the motorcycle that was used in the attack in Defence.
Kamran Qureshi, resident of Nazimabad, said he had informally sold his motorcycle six years ago, even though it was still registered in his name. He is expected to be freed though.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2011.