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Security officials survey the site of a blast at the University of Karachi campus December 28, 2010. The blast reported at the main state-run university in Karachi on Tuesday was probably caused by a firecracker, police said. – Photo by Reuters

KARACHI: At least four students were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off on the Karachi University campus on Tuesday.

The blast occurred when students belonging to the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) were about to offer Zuhar prayers on a lawn near the central cafeteria, police said.

The wounded students were rushed to a nearby private hospital. Two of them, Wajid Ali of the statistics department and Ammir Abbas of Islamic learning department, were admitted to the Patel Hospital, where they were operated upon.

One of the wounded was bleeding from the ear while the other had suffered injuries in the abdomen, SSP Naeem Shakih said.

And Irfan Abbas and Israr Husain of the geology department were discharged from hospital after necessary treatment.

“They were getting ready for the prayers when the blast occurred. Something placed close to a small tree exploded. Following the blast, we shifted the wounded students to hospital,” Sabir Ali, a student of the political science department told Dawn.

The tree near which the IED exploded came down and the windowpanes of the cafeteria were shattered by the impact of the blast. The explosion was heard across the campus.

“It was an IED, laced with a small number of bearing balls and about a kilogram of explosives, placed under a small tree near the area where the prayer leader was supposed to stand while leading the prayers,” said SSP Raja Umar Khattab of the Special Investigation Unit.

Clearly, the target was students belonging to the ISO, he added.

A timer might have been used in the blast. If a remote control had been used, it could have been detonated when the prayers were to be in progress, the SSP said.

A small crater, around one-foot-deep, was created by the blast.

SSP Naeem Shaikh of Gulshan Town said it was not yet clear as to how the explosive was detonated. Either a cellphone or a timer was used or a remote control employed, he wondered.

Shrapnel from the blast were collected by officials of the Bomb Disposal Unit and taken away for an analysis.

Following the blast, students belonging to the ISO gathered and took out a rally. They marched on different roads on the campus and went up to the main gate, where they dispersed, SSP Shaikh said.

“We have assured the university administration that security would be provided on the campus if they wanted to open the university on Wednesday,” SSP Shaikh said, adding that they wanted to rule out the presence of any explosive material or unwanted persons on the campus.

An FIR about the incident was yet to be registered at the Mobina Town police station as representatives of the ISO told the police that they wanted to be the complainant in the case and they would lodge the FIR as soon as they got time from the hospital where the wounded were being treated, the SSP added.

Panic after blast

Panic and chaos ruled the Karachi University campus following the IED explosion that occurred at around 1pm.

Most students were busy chatting outside their classrooms after finishing their morning papers while others were either preparing, or coming to the university, for their papers scheduled in the afternoon when the explosion occurred.

“There was a loud sound of the blast that panicked us. We immediately approached our teachers who, too, had no clue as to what had happened,” a student at the arts faculty said.

The chaos and fear forced the university administration to cancel papers scheduled for later in the day.

Speaking to Dawn, teachers expressed fears that the incident could heighten tension on the campus in the future and the administration needed to be more careful.

Giving their suggestions on how to improve security on the campus, they said the administration must ban all student organisations on the campus as they were the sole cause of violence.

“Notwithstanding today’s explosion, the current episode of violence is evidently linked to student groups backed by political parties. The situation on the campus would never improve until political parties stopped their interference,” a teacher said.

Prof (Dr) Abid Hasnain representing the Karachi University Teachers Society said the teachers’ representatives had once again apprised the vice chancellor of their serious concerns about the lack of security on the campus.

“The vice chancellor had nothing to say today in response to our concerns which we have been raising for the past three years. The security is not inadequate; it simply doesn’t exist and it’s not unexpected to encounter such incidents in these conditions,” he said. Recommending some security measures that the administration needed to take immediately, Prof Hasnain said: “We want a visible change. That means an increase in the number of security personnel, who should have proper training in the use of modern equipment.

“The university has not yet recruited new security staff for which it gave an advertisement in newspapers a year ago,” he added.

Karachi University Vice Chancellor Dr Pirzada Qasim visited the site of the blast on Tuesday.