ISLAMABAD: 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, the police said.
Television footage showed the fiery wreckage of a vehicle with several cops at the scene after the explosion. Shortly afterwards, the Islamabad police declared a “red alert” in the city, which saw the first such attack in years.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which called off a stop-start ceasefire with the government in November, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement, according to AFP and Reuters news agencies.
The police earlier said the car used in the blast was occupied by a male driver and a woman passenger when he detonated a device inside the car.
TTP claims responsibility for capital’s first attack in years
However, details that emerged later suggested that the other person was also a man, and made the police unsure about his status that whether he was the accomplice of the suicide attacker or his hostage, Dawn has learnt.
A case has been registered at the Counterterrorism Department (CTD) Police Station against the person who detonated the explosive under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, sections 4 and 5 of the Explosives Act, along with sections 302, 324, 427 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Police officials told Dawn footage revealed that the car had only one occupant, who was driving it. However, body parts of two people were found on the spot, including the suicide attacker.
There was confusion over the status of the other man who was driving the car that whether he was an accomplice of the terrorist, a hostage, or a driver who picked up a passenger as routine, the officials said.
However, they said that unlike details coming out immediately after the incident, there was no trace of any woman in the car or as an accomplice of the terrorists. Besides, the autopsy report also confirmed that there was no woman among the dead.
There were some general alerts over terrorism, but none of them was specific, the officials said.
The car, a Mehran yellow cab, was registered in Lahore in the name of a man who hails from Chakwal, they said, adding that the car was used with the original registration plate, and so far no report of the vehicle’s missing or stolen was found.
Usually, stolen vehicles or ones with fake a registration plate were used in crime and terrorism incidents, they said, adding that under such circumstances, there was a possibility that the other person was a hostage of the terrorist, who hired the taxi until reaching his destination, or used the taxi as a normal passenger.
The taxi entered from the capital from Pirwahdi and reached Sabzi Mandi and later moved to Islamabad’s I-10/4 sector via service road. A police patrolling team signalled the taxi to stop on suspicion and the driver disembarked from it and his search was conducted.
When the police team asked him for documents, including the CNIC, he returned to the taxi and all of sudden, it blew up with the explosion when he reached the rear door, the officers said, adding that the circumstances and evidence collected from the spot suggested that either he or the man sitting in the car detonated the suicide jacket kept at the rear seat of the taxi.
Besides, it was also believed that the other person was lying on the rear seat, they said, but added that so far nothing was established and confirmed about who was the taxi driver and who was the terrorist.
The explosion turned the taxi into the wreckage, and 12kg to 15kg explosives were used in the explosion, the police said.
Documents of two vehicles, including the taxi and CNICs, were also found from the spot, the officials said.
In the explosion, Head Constable Syed Adeel Hussain, 46, was martyred. Besides, five policemen — M. Yousaf, Mehboob, Naveed, Haneef, and Raza Hassan — along with two civilians, M. Ashar and Inam, were injured.
The interior minister and a senior police officer claimed the presence of a woman terrorist in the car, but evidence or clue regarding his presence was not established, the officials added.
In an interview with Geo News, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said “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, adding that if the car had reached its target, it would have caused heavy losses.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Operations Sohail Zafar Chattha also said that a taxi in which a man and woman was riding was intercepted on suspicion and conducted their body search, during which a man with long hair returned to the car and blew himself up.
Hours later, the police registered an FIR, which slightly contradicted with DIG Chattha’s statement, as it said that the police team stopped the taxi on suspicion. The head constable came close to the taxi and on his demand the driver, produced CNIC and vehicle registration book to him, it added.
The head constable spotted a long-haired man, who seemed to be of Afghan origin from appearance and seated on the rear seat, the FIR said. When the cop asked his colleagues to check the passenger, the explosion occurred.
Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2022