A policeman was martyred and at least six people — including four police officers and two civilians — were injured in a suicide blast in Islamabad’s I-10/4 sector on Friday, police officials said.
Television footage showed the fiery wreckage of a vehicle with a large number of police personnel combing the scene. Shortly afterwards, the Islamabad police declared a “red alert” in the city.
According to Deputy Inspector General of Police Sohail Zafar Chattha, the police spotted a “suspicious vehicle” with a man and a woman aboard at 10:15am in the area.
“When the police stopped the vehicle, the couple came out of the car. The long-haired man, while being checked by the officers, went inside the vehicle on some pretext and then detonated himself,” he said in a media briefing at the crime scene alongside Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon.
Chattha said a police officer of the Eagle Squad was martyred in the blast while four others officers were injured. He lauded the police for “saving Islamabad from a major foul play”.
However, later in the day, the Islamabad police tweeted that no evidence regarding the presence of a woman was found during the post-mortem and subsequent investigation.
The police said that the driver or the attacker had possibly wrapped themselves in a chaddor which had caused officials to believe that a woman was also present in the car.
The police asserted that security in the capital had been kept on “high alert” for the next 48 hours and reiterated that the attack had been foiled due to timely action by intelligence agencies.
Meanwhile, the joint executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), Dr Iqbal Durrani, told Dawn.com that two bodies and five injured policemen had been brought to the hospital.
‘Two terrorists killed’
Separately, in an interview with Geo News, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed that “two terrorists” were killed in the blast.
“The vehicle used in the blast was registered in Chakwal. The car entered Islamabad from Rawalpindi […] it was packed with explosives and headed for a high-value target in the capital,” he said.
Sanaullah added that had the car reached its target, it would have caused heavy losses.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Friday.
Earlier in a tweet, the Islamabad police identified the slain officer as Head Constable Adeel Hussain. It said that terrorists had been targeting police for some time to demoralise law enforcement personnel.
In another tweet, the police said that diversions had been placed for both sides of traffic at Service Road East of Sector I-10/4. It advised citizens to use Service Road West of Sector I-10/4 as an alternate and stay away from the blast site.
Red alert issued
Immediately after the blast was reported, the Islamabad inspector-general issued orders for a “security red alert” across the city.
In a tweet, the police said strict action will be taken against vehicles with “non-specimen” number plates, adding that no one will be allowed to carry arms.
It also advised residents to carry documents of identification while travelling.
A day ago, Islamabad police issued a statement, saying its Eagle Squad had checked 2,024 suspicious persons, motorcycles, and vehicles as part of a security measure, especially in the aftermath of a new wave of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Funeral of martyred policeman held
The funeral prayer of the martyred head constable was held later in the day at Police Line Headquarters in the capital.
The inspector general, deputy commissioner and other Islamabad police officials attended the funeral along with the martyr’s family.
The martyr’s remains were then handed over to the family and sent to his ancestral village.
Separately, the interior minister announced that Hussain would be bestowed with the Tamgha-i-Shujaat (Medal of Bravery) for “exhibiting extraordinary courage and bravery”, Radio Pakistan reported.
Sanaullah said the head constable was martyred in an attempt to “save the federal capital from a major terrorist attack” and the award was a recognition of his sacrifice at the state level.
He also said that Hussain’s widow would be recruited into the Islamabad police and the government would pay her Rs16.5 million, along with a plot of land for his family.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast and sought a report from authorities.
“Due to the timely action of the law enforcement agencies, the nefarious plan of terrorists to shed the blood of innocent people has been foiled,” the premier said in a statement.
He ordered authorities to provide the best possible medical treatment to those injured in the blast.
The premier also directed the Islamabad police chief to recognise the courage shown by law enforcers in confronting terrorists and award certificates of appreciation to those who showed “extraordinary bravery”.
“We will rid our country of all such elements who are the enemies of Pakistan and murderers of innocent people,” he vowed, adding that the nation will continue the war against terrorism.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the blast and expressed grief over the martyrdom of the policeman.
In a statement issued after the blast, he paid tribute to the “brave men of Islamabad police”.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Islamabad was secured from a “big disaster” today. “Adeel Hussain and the injured comrades who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty are heroes of the nation.”
She tweeted that Pakistan’s salvation and prosperity lay only in freedom from terrorism.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan pointed out that the law and order situation was “deteriorating rapidly across the country”.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Asad Umar said the presence of a “suicide bomber” in Islamabad signified that the country was moving towards destruction at a rapid pace.
“Terrorism is already spreading rapidly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the economy and public order have been destroyed — in which direction are they leading the country in their greed for power?” he tweeted.
Condemning the blast, Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Ali Khan said the seriousness of the situation could be gauged from the fact that “terrorists have reached Islamabad”.
In a tweet, the ANP leader said rulers and law enforcers must take stock of the situation and adopt measures accordingly.
“Terrorists had been organising here [in Islamabad] for the last 3 years, and now even the capital is not safe,” he claimed, adding that the situation could get worse if the counter-terrorism measures planned after the APS attack were not implemented.
Khan called upon the government to take urgent steps for training and facilities of local police, saying “they are our frontline fighting force”.
Additional reporting by Tahir Khan