KARACHI: A powerful blast ripped through a minimart at a petrol station on Khayaban-e-Ittehad in DHA on Wednesday, injuring eight people – at least one of them critically.
A fire also erupted at the site after the explosion but the fire fighters arrived immediately and extinguished the blaze. The blast caused extensive damage to the shopping mart and the refilling pump, where CNG is also stored.
The gas compressor room, just behind the mart, remained safe, otherwise, according to the bomb squad, the entire Defence area would have been affected.
The injured men were identified as Asif, Zubair, Kamran, Abid, Abdullah, Adeel, Waseem and storekeeper Hashmatullah, who suffered over 60 per cent burns. “As soon as Hashmat went near the freezer inside the store, there was a blast,” said Adeel, who fractured a hand as a wall collapsed on him.
Believing it to be an accident, police claimed the deep freezer’s compressor had exploded. “We do not have any evidence currently to link it to a terrorist attack,” said SHO Asif Butt.
Glass shards, cold drinks, chips, biscuits and chocolates littered the place as store workers were seen picking up salvageable items. “Some of my friends were injured but thank God I escaped unhurt,” Khalid, a storekeeper, said.
Asad Javed, who has been running the store for the past 10 years, had no idea what caused the explosion, as he has not received any threats.
“The police are saying the compressor exploded. But the deep freezer was switched off,” a nervous-looking Javed wondered. “God knows what happened and what will happen.”
The bomb squad believed it was a bomb blast and a kilogramme of highly explosive substances was used. “A non-electrical device, such as a safety fuse, was used for detonation,” a senior member of the Bomb Disposal Squad told The Express Tribune. “Whatever was left was washed away by the fire fighters.” “The location suggests someone came inside to place the bomb quietly by the freezer and left after igniting the fuse,” he suspected.
Investigators were trying to establish links of the explosion with some recent blasts, including the one inside a car at another petrol pump on Rashid Minhas Road and a blast at an inter-city passenger bus near Cantt railway station. “The common factor in all these blasts is the lack of a defined motive,” a senior investigation officer said. The series of explosions may even be linked to the attacks on telecommunication franchises in 2011, when a militant outfit first targeted the outlets to create panic and then send for extortion.
The alleged mastermind of the franchise attacks, Syed Yasin Shah, was killed and his accomplice, Qadir Shah, was arrested after an encounter in January last year. “Only after his arrest did the police came to know that the mobile service franchise was attacked for extortion,” a senior officer said. Nothing can be said until investigations are completed, said Crime Investigation Department’s SSP Fayyaz Khan. The militant arrested over the cellular outlets attacks would be questioned to extract possible clues, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2013.