SUKKUR, July 24: Terrorists rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the local headquarters of the ISI here on Wednesday evening, leading to collapse of a major part of the building and death of at least four officials of the intelligence agency and two attackers.
This was the first terrorist attack on offices of a security agency in this part of the country. The attack was followed by intense firing and hurl-ing of grenades in the Barrage Colony which also houses the headquarters of Shahbaz Rangers, Military Intelligence and other government offices and residences like the DIG House and Commissioner House. Three assailants died in the exchange of fire.
The vehicle laden with explosives hit the ISI office-cum-residential building about five minutes after the Iftar time. A major part of the building collapsed and an electricity transformer was damaged. Outer walls, main gates and windows and doors of the nearby Commissioner House and DIG House were damaged.
Several army men, including officers, were seriously injured and taken to the Civil Hospital.
DIG Jawed Alam Odho and Commissioner Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi said 40kg of explosives were used in the initial attack. The assailants hurled 34 grenades from time to time and five to six live grenades were found by the bomb disposal squad.
Five to seven suspects were arrested and search for others continued in different areas till late in the night.
TV channels put the death toll at seven to ten but there was no confirmation from the hospital. Sources said the dead included ISI’s deputy director Maj Zeeshan, Azizullah, Asghar Ali and Nazeer Ahmed and an unidentified man.
Sources said that two suicide bombers had blown themselves up at the beginning of the attack.
Although ISI offices were the main target, more than 100 houses were also damaged.
Ahsan Korai, a gardener at the DIG House, died when the wall of a servants quarter collapsed on him. Several women and children were injured after being hit by shards of damaged windowpanes.
Several people going to a mosque for Maghreb prayers were injured and taken to different hospitals.
Fear and panic gripped Sukkur and parts of Rohri and thousands of people came on the roads. Sepco cut electricity supply to Sukkur and the city plunged into darkness which hindered rescue work.
Rangers and police cordoned off the Barrage Town and roads around it and sealed an area about three kilometres. Mobile phone service was suspended in a large area.
An emergency was declared in hospitals, doctors and paramedics were called from the houses on emergency duty. Appeals were made for blood donations.
Power supply was not restored even five hours after the attack and Sukkur wore the look of a deserted town.
Agencies add: Four explosions were heard in the area, with ‘terrorists’ seizing control of one government building and firing at another, PTV reported. The wall of a third building had collapsed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although ISI and security forces are frequent targets for the Taliban.
Sukkur has traditionally been immune from such violence, more frequently seen in the northwest on the Afghan border or in cities of Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
An intelligence official in Karachi said gunmen first detonated a bomb near the office of a senior police official before making their way to an ISI office and detonating a car bomb there.
“A search and cordon operation is still on. We suspect that some militants may be hiding inside,” the official said.
Masood Bangash, a senior police official in Sukkur, said suicide bombers were involved in the attack.
“One suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden car in front of ISI office and other militants started firing on police,” he said.
“Police have killed three attackers but we suspect that one more attacker is alive and hiding in a building,” he said.