The day after a powerful blast shook the foundations of Shikarpur city, rescue workers from the Jafaria Disaster Management Cell (JDC) drove for nine hours from Karachi to help.
They spent several hours cleaning the blood-stained prayer hall of Karbala Maula Imambargah. Young men picked up ears, fingers, teeth and other body parts from the four corners of the room. The blood-soaked green carpet and blue prayers mats were rolled up by rescue workers and kept outside for the police to examine. Body parts and other evidence were kept on a stretcher in front of an ambulance.
"We reached here late at night from Karachi," said Azhar Ali of the JDC. "Our volunteers have been cleaning up the prayer hall. We removed the carpet and have kept the remaining body parts on a stretcher for the police and families." He added that by the time they reached there, many families had already taken their dead along with their severed limbs.
The bomb, which weighed eight kilogrammes, had such an impact that all windows of the prayer hall on the ground floor shattered into pieces.
One man walked around the prayer hall looking lost. He was stil trying to come to terms with what happened on Friday. While talking to The Express Tribune, he said that he was standing in the first row from the front and had just gone into prostration when the blast took place. "There was a dead person on my left and another one on my right," he said. "I kept running every where. I had no idea what had happened. There was so much confusion." He added that thick smoke had filled the room and all he could see were the bomb's ball-bearings bouncing from wall to wall.
Ghulam Abbas, a man in his late 40s, walked into the imambargah with tears that he had not yet shed. He said that the bomb exploded as soon as he walked in to join the prayers. The explosion left him with a rib injury. "All my friends who had come to offer their Juma prayers with me, are no more," he said.
Investigating the crime
SSP Saqib Ismail Memon, who had been in Karachi the day before, reached Shikarpur late on Friday night. He got to the blast site on Saturday morning with a team from Karachi's Crime Investigation Department to collect evidence – nearly 24 hours after the incident.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the SSP said that initial investigation suggested that it was a suicide blast but it has not been confirmed yet.
On the other hand, the DSP of the Sukkur Bomb Disposal Squad, Tahir Malik claimed that it was not a suicide attack. "There is a possibility that a man was carrying the explosives in a plastic bag and left it near the staircase in the prayer hall," he said. "Usually when a suicide blast takes places, you find the lower abdomen of the bomber. This has not been found as yet."
According to the SSP, two police constables who were supposed to be on duty during the Friday prayers were suspended.
According to Civil Hospital, Shikarpur, the total death toll stands at 57 with another 54 injured. The medical superintendent, Shaukat Memon, claimed that the hospital was not prepared for a disaster of this level. He said that they only had a few general physicians and two child specialists. He added that it was not easy to deal with an emergency of this calibre. "We had more than a 100 people being brought to us within an hour."
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.
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