FAISALABAD: Terrorists struck Punjab’s industrial hub of Faisalabad with a car bomb which exploded at a CNG filling station on Tuesday. At least 25 people were killed and 131 others injured. According to a Western agency report, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
The CNG station is close to the offices of an intelligence agency on the Mall Road.
The explosion, which took place at around 10:30 am, caused a six- by 16-foot crater. According to civil defence officers, 40kg of locally-made explosives were used in the attack.
Parts of the vehicle believed to have been used in the blast were found near adjacent buildings.
Besides the CNG station, the blast destroyed three buildings, including the zonal offices of the PIA, two houses, over a dozen cars and as many motorcycles.
The injured were taken to the District Hospital and Allied Hospital. The condition of five of them was stated to be critical while 20 were discharged.
Rescue personnel put the death toll at 25.
This is the first attack on a security establishment in the city.
On July 8, 1996, two people were killed and more than 30 injured when a bomb exploded at the railway station.
Talking to Dawn, Regional police chief Aftab Cheema said the car packed with explosives was parked at the CNG station because the terrorists could not breach the security line around the intelligence agency’s offices.
PML-N legislator Abid Sher Ali said the target appeared to be the ISI offices.
According to him, the terrorists hurled two grenades, fired a few rounds and then detonated the explosives.
A number of cars and motorcycles were buried in the rubble and the wreckage smashed and burnt vehicles littered the area. People were seen crying as they searched for their loved ones.
The supply of gas and electricity to the area was disrupted.
Attaullah, a security guard at the PIA offices, said the blast shattered windowpanes of the building and windscreens of several cars, causing injuries to a number of the people. The building of a nearby air-conditioner and fridge repair workshop collapsed.
Sources said police arrested a suspect who has been identified as Usman, 24, of Kabirwala. He also sustained injuries.
They said the attack could be militants’ revenge for the killing of Taliban leader Dr Umer Kundi and arrest of three high-profile militants in Faisalabad. Kundi was killed in a shootout on Feb 19 last year near the State Bank building.
The local traders’ association has announced a one-day mourning and the cloth market will remain closed for three days.
A PIA statement said its town office was severely affected. Its two officials – senior accounts officer Aneela Rasheed and senior HR assistant Ahmed Sher – lost their lives and a number of others suffered injuries.
With the PIA office having become non-functional, the airline has made arrangements for reservations and ticketing at the airport.
PIA Emergency Response Centre will function for the next 24 hours for information and assistance and can be contacted at 99044372 and 99044862.
AP adds: The Pakistani Taliban say they carried out the car bombing.
Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan says the target of the blast was an office of main spy agency.
He said the blast was revenge for the killing of a militant by security forces in Faisalabad last year.