Two low-intensity bombs exploded in deserted markets of the federal capital in the early hours of Saturday, killing one watchman, injuring another and causing damage to property, according to the police.
The explosions occurred at a time when security was on high alert in Islamabad to deal with a potential backlash from militants after aerial strikes flattened militant hideouts in North Waziristan from this week.
Police officials said it was too early to connect the two bomb blasts with the military strikes in the tribal areas but said they were considering the explosions as terrorist activities.
In the first incident, a security guard for a plaza in the F-6 Super Market was killed in an attempt to inspect a suspicious shopping bag around 2:15am. The bag was lying in the parking lot of a plaza, which houses a pharmacy and three jewellery shops, opposite School Road.
The security guard Muhammad Azam, in his late 50s, tried to inspect the bag with his foot, according to police and traders. His leg was blown away when the improvised explosive device in the bag went off, launching shrapnel in all directions. Azam was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences where he died from his injuries.
Shop windows, located some 30 feet from the site of the explosion, were shattered by shrapnel. The sound of the blast was heard several kilometres away.
Another security guard identified as Muhammad Gulzar, who was on guard duty at a plaza east of the parking lot, received shrapnel wounds. He was treated for injuries at Polyclinic Hospital, where his condition was stable.
Traders at Super Market said the bomb explosion has exposed a serious lapse in the security of public places in the capital. They said Azam sacrificed himself to protect many others who could have lost their lives had the bomb gone off later in the day.
In reply to a question, traders denied receiving extortion-related threats.
Within minutes of the explosion at Super Market, an improvised explosive device went off at the Karachi Company market in Sector G-9, some seven kilometres southwest of the Super Market. The bomb destroyed a Suzuki Cultus parked outside a car showroom near a petrol pump in the market, according to police officials at the Margalla police station.
“It has not been determined if the bomb was planted in the car or if a packet was placed underneath,” a police official said. “We are trying to trace the car owner.” The bomb disposal squad said around three kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the Karachi Company blast. No one was injured, but the car was destroyed.
Both Margalla and Kohsar police stations have registered cases for the incidents on terrorism charges. “Judging by the nature of the blasts, the two incidents appear to be carried out by the same culprits,” a senior police official, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune. “It is possible that the blasts might be linked with the operation against militants in tribal areas but investigations into the incidents are still ongoing.”
The explosions on Saturday were the first attacks in the capital since April 9 when the Islamabad vegetable market was rocked by a powerful bomb blast, which killed 25 people and injured over 100 others.
Since Wednesday, the army has launched a series of aerial strikes in North Waziristan, killing at least 64 militants. The law enforcement agencies in the twin cities have been put on high alert to deal with any hostility in urban areas from militant outfits targeted in the tribal areas. The interior minister has also ordered the Rangers to assist the police in patrolling as part of a Rapid Response Force from next week.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2014.