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Karachi shuts in mourning: Shooting and arson continue
Publication Date : 05-03-2013
As Karachi shut down on Monday in mourning for the people killed in Sunday’s deadly bombing, violence accompanied by firing, arson attacks and exchange of heavy gunfire along the Superhighway after the burial of Abbas Town victims, left at least two men dead and 12 wounded.
The Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) accused the Rangers of attacking peaceful funeral participants returning from the Wadi-i-Hussain graveyard, where most of the bombing victims were buried.
But a spokesman for Sindh Rangers rejected the allegation and said five paramilitary officials, including a deputy superintendent of Rangers, were injured in violence and intense firing by ‘miscreants’.
“We demand removal of the director general of Rangers,” a spokesman for the MWM said. “Two youngsters - Karar Haider aka Moon and Khawar Raza - sustained fatal bullet wounds. Seventeen participants with bullet wounds are being treated at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. This is sheer brutality.”
Some areas along the Superhighway turned into a battlefield where armed groups were seen exchanging heavy gunfire with law-enforcers. The area near Abbas Town remained inaccessible to law enforcement agencies as armed men were roaming about, heightening fears in the strife-hit locality.
Amid heavy gunfire, two buses and a truck were set on fire near Sohrab Goth. Before the violence a mini-truck and an excavator were also set ablaze in the same area.
Police remained clueless about the people and the reason for the attack when a peaceful strike was drawing to a close.
Earlier, life remained at a standstill in the city in response to a call for strike given by Shia organisations. Similar appeals were made by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and some other parties. The call was supported by the main organisations of traders and transporters who kept markets closed and public transport off the road.
Barriers to investigation
Officials investigating the Abbas Town bombing saw similarities to the explosives used in last month’s Kirani Road bombings in Quetta. “Although there are no test results available for the explosives used, we strongly suspect that these were similar to those used in the Kirani Road bombing,” said a senior investigator.
“They (terrorists) have replicated the Kirani Road bombing, though at a smaller scale. Abbas Town’s death toll is nearly half of the Quetta bombing,” said SP Niaz Ahmed Khosa, a member of the investigation team.
“It seems now they have changed their tactics and are more into carrying out bombing through explosives-laden vehicles than sending in suicide vest-bearing foot soldiers. It causes large-scale devastation,” the SP said.
“So far we have been able to determine that a Subaru car was used in the bombing. But during the course of further investigations things may change,” Inspector General of Sindh police Fayyaz Leghari told Dawn.
Amid tension and chaos, police stayed away from the crime scene fearing a backlash from mourners.
Even 12 hours after the bombing, the investigators were unable to visit the place to collect forensic evidence.
“How can we find crucial evidence from the crime scene and trace suspects if enraged people do not allow us to visit the area?” wondered SP Raja Umar Khattab, who heads the counter-terrorism unit of Criminal Investigation Department. The officer did visit the crime scene early on Monday morning, but by that time the crater was already filled with rubble.
The only success the police could achieve was when its bomb disposal unit reached the place five hours after the bombing and gave its preliminary findings.
The crater was estimated to be four feet deep and 10 feet in circumference. It was filled with rubble and water from the firefighting operation by 3am.
According to the initial report of the bomb disposal unit, at least 150kg of explosives laced with ball bearings and nails was used in the bombing.
The impact of the bombing was felt within a radius of 500 to 700 metres, and massive devastation was caused within a radius of 50 metres, the report said.
Police were not able to collect soil samples from the crater to ascertain the type of explosives used in the bombing.
The samples are usually sent to the FIA laboratory in Islamabad.
Referring to the last Muharram bombing in Abbas Town, SP Umar Khattab said it appeared that the same suspects were behind the Sunday bombing. “There was no specific target, just general public as it was in the Kinari Road bombing aimed at causing mass casualties amid the Shia community,” he said.
High death toll
Police surgeon Dr Aslam Pechuhoo told Dawn that the death toll from the Abbas Town bombing had risen to 48 by Monday night. The dead included two women and two children. “We have completed post-mortem on 48 bodies,” he said.
As many as 33 bodies were brought to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, 14 to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and one to Civil Hospital Karachi. Fifteen injured people are under treatment in Liaquat National Hospital, 13 in the Aga Khan Hospital and three in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
After the burial of the victims, a sit-in was organised by the MWM at the Numaish traffic intersection. The protest ended in the night with a press conference addressed by Maulana Sadiq Raza Taqvi. He asked the army and intelligence agencies to explain whether they stood with peace-loving people or bunch of terrorists.
Another sit-in was held at Teen Talwar in Clifton. It was also called off after midnight.
“We had to fire a few shells when some youths from among the protesters went to shops and tied to damage their shutters,” DIG South Shahid Hayat said.