RAWALPINDI, Oct 30: A suicide bomber struck a police checkpoint in the high security zone of Rawalpindi, less than a kilometre from President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s camp office on Tuesday, killing seven people, three of them policemen, and injuring 31 others.
The three policemen and eight of the injured belonged to the security staff of the President House. The civilians injured in the attack included schoolchildren, who were in a van, and a cyclist.
Doctors said the death toll might rise, adding that one injured policeman was in a critical condition.
Among the injured civilians was a woman, Kulsoom Perveen of Chaklala, her daughter Sidra (25) and nieces Naila (30), nine-month-old Mahnoor and one-year-old Wajiha who were travelling in a wagon which veered off the road after the powerful blast and crashed against a pavement.
Initially, it was assumed that the bomb had hit the passenger wagon but later it emerged that the suicide bomber had struck a police picket set up on the Golf Road which leads to the Army House.
The sound of the explosion at about 11.50am was heard several kilometres away from the site, striking fear among the already terror-stricken people of Rawalpindi.
President Musharraf was in his office at the time of the blast.
A security official quoted a witness as saying that a man appeared from the Golf Club side and walked towards the police picket a few metres away from the gates of the residence of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“When I reached the site of the attack, I saw human limbs scattered all over the place, and two critically wounded persons. They were lying there, perhaps breathing their last,” the security official said.
The head of the suicide bomber was seen stuck on a nearby tree, and pieces of human flesh on another tree were handed over to forensic experts from the Special Investigation Group (SIG) team of the Federal Investigation Agency.
There were at least 19 policemen, headed by two SSIs, on duty when the man detonated explosives.
The cleaning of the site of the blast caused problems for forensic experts who were trying to collect pieces of the explosives and other material.
“A suicide jacket carrying 8 to 10 kilograms of explosives was used in the attack,” an SIG expert said.
City Police Officer Saud Aziz told Dawn that the suicide bomber blew himself up when he was intercepted by the police personnel at the Golf Road picket.
“Our policemen challenged the attacker who wanted to get past the security cordon.
“Later, he exploded explosives wrapped to his body near the picket,” he said, adding that the head, two legs and fingers of the attacker had been found by the police and preserved for DNA tests.
Mr Aziz said the target of the bombing was law-enforcement personnel.
The suicide bomber was aged between 10 and 20,” Javed Iqbal Cheema, spokesman for the interior ministry, told Dawn.
In reply to a question, Mr Cheema said he would not link it with the Swat situation.
Shortly after the blast, the area was cordoned off by officials of law-enforcement agencies.
A team of military bomb disposal experts reached the site and collected remains of the bomber and other material from the place to ascertain the explosives used in the attack.
The blast was so powerful that it tore apart the wooden door and shattered windows of a nearby checkpoint jointly manned by police and military personnel.
“As I heard the huge bang, I rushed to the site and saw bodies and human flesh scattered all over,” a witness said.
The air was filled with stench of blood. A mangled and bloodied bicycle lay nearby.There were scenes of chaos in the District Headquarters and Rawalpindi General Hospitals as relatives of the victims struggled to locate their loved-ones and security officials pushed them back.
The bodies of ASIs Mohammad Akram and Naeem Haider Zaidi and constable Asim Naeem and 11 of the injured were taken to the DHQ. One of the injured, Asif Yasin, was taken to the Rawalpindi General Hospital. The other 17 injured were shifted to the CMH and two to the MH.
The injured army personnel were identified as Hawaldar Farooq, Lance Naik Mohammad Altaf, and Sepoy Maqsood. Sepoy Omer Ehsan and Hawaldar Gulzar Ahmed and the injured policemen were identified as Kamran, Sajjad Qamar, Qazafi, Asad Javad, Shahid, Aqueel, Noman and Mushtaq.