A pall of gloom hung over Lyari, a congested neighbourhood inured by gang violence, as mourners buried the victims of Wednesday morning’s bomb blast at a football stadium. The bomb tore through the half-turf, half-road play area near Bezinjo Chowk following a football match hours before dawn. At least 11 people – mostly teenagers – were killed and over two dozen wounded.
Hundreds of fans had gathered to watch the final of one of many tournaments held during the month of Ramazan in Lyari, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stronghold which has earned notoriety for a turf war among deadly gangs. It was unclear who carried out the attack and why. Police said they were looking into at least four possibilities.
Police and witnesses said the bomb went off as the winning team prepared to leave with the trophy around 2:20am. “The remotely-detonated explosive device was strapped to a motorcycle parked outside the stadium,” SSP Tariq Dharejo told The Express Tribune. He confirmed the casualties, saying that seven of the dead were aged between 13 and 18 years. Local PPP legislator Sania Naz put the death toll at 11.
The casualties were shifted to the Lyari General Hospital and Civil Hospital where medics said that some of the injured had life-threatening wounds.
“The blast took place when the players, spectators and guests were walking out of the stadium,” Majid Baloch, who was also injured in the blast, told The Express Tribune from his hospital bed. “The bomb was so powerful I felt as if it exploded right inside my head,” he said, recalling the horror.
Another witness recalled the chaotic scenes at the site. “There was utter chaos after the explosion. Bodies were lying scattered, the injured were crying for help while survivors were running for safety,” Zafar Baloch told The Express Tribune. “A thick cloud of dust and smoke covered the whole stadium,” said Sheree, who was standing near the convoy of Muhammad Jawaid Nagori, the Sindh minister for katchi abadies and spatial development, when the blast knocked her off her feet. She claimed she saw the bodies of three children.
Provincial Information Minister Sharjeel Memon claimed that the attack was apparently targeted at Nagori, who had come to hand out prizes at the stadium. Nagori also endorsed Memon. “I believe the perpetrators wanted to target me,” said Nagori whose SUV was damaged in the blast.
Police investigators said the provincial minister or the leadership of the outlawed Peoples Amn Committee could be the target because PAC leader Zafar Baloch was also among the guests. “We are investigating four possibilities. It could be a politically-motivated attack or it could be linked to Lyari’s gang war. At the same time we are also investigating the possible involvement of the Baloch insurgent group Balochistan Liberation Army and sectarian extremist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,” SSP Dharejo said.
A senior investigator pointed out an eerie similarity between Wednesday’s blast and the bomb attack at a PPP corner meeting in Lyari during the run-up to the May 11 elections. “The same modus operandi was used in both attacks. And interestingly, Javed Nagori was present near the locations of both attacks,” he added.
According to Bomb Disposal Squad experts, the explosive device weighed five to six kilogrammes and was rigged a huge quantity of ball bearings to inflict maximum casualties.
Lyari wore a gloomy look on Wednesday to mourn its dead. Traders and shopkeepers in and around the neighbourhood closed their businesses to express solidarity with the families of the victims. A heavy contingent of law enforcers was deployed to the area to maintain order.
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his deepest sympathies with the families of the victims and urged the authorities to provide the best possible medical treatment to the injured.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.
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