Two bombs go off in capital, reminding citizens of city’s vulnerability

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 25, 2014.

Islamabad – Two low-intensity bombs exploded in separate parts of the federal capital in the early hours of Saturday, killing one watchman, injuring another and causing damage to property, according to police.

The explosions occurred at a time when security had been beefed up in Islamabad fearing a potential backlash from militants after the military started conducting aerial strikes against militant hideouts in North Waziristan from Wednesday.

Police officials said it was too early to connect the two bomb blasts with the military strikes in the tribal areas but said the explosions appeared to be warning threats and they were considering the explosions as terrorism activities.

In the first incident, a watchman of a plaza in the F-6 Super Market was killed as he tried to inspect a suspicious shopping bag around 2:15am. The bag was lying in the parking lot of a plaza, which houses the MediPlus Chemist and three jewelry shops, opposite the School Road.

The watchman Muhammad Azam, in his late 50s, appeared to have tried to inspect the bag with his foot, police and traders told The Express Tribune. His leg was blown away when the improvised explosive device in the bag went off, launching shrapnel in all directions. Azam was shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences where he died from his injuries.

The windows of the shops, located some 30 feet from the site of the explosion, were shattered by shrapnel. The shops were closed at the time of the explosion and the market was deserted. The sound of the blast was heard even several kilometers away from the blast site.

But another watchman identified as Muhammad Gulzar, who was on guard duty at a plaza to the east of the parking lot, received shrapnel wounds. He was treated for the injuries at the Polyclinic Hospital, where his condition was stable.

Traders at the Super Market said they had not received any extortion-related threats. They said the bomb explosion has exposed a serious lapse in security of public places in the capital.

Traders said Azam in a way sacrificed himself to protect many others who could have lost their lives, had the bomb gone off at any other time in the day.

Within minutes of the explosion at the Super Market, an improvised explosive device went off at the Karachi Company market in sector G-9, some seven kilometers southwest of the Super Market.

The bomb destroyed a Suzuki Cultus parked outside a car showroom near a petrol pump and van stand in the market, according to police officers at the Margalla police station.

“It has not been determined if the bomb was planted in the car or if a packet was placed underneath the car,” a police officer said. “We are trying to trace the car’s owner.”

Bomb disposal squad said around three kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the Karachi Company blast. No one was injured, but the car was completely destroyed, according to Margalla police.

Both Margalla and Kohsar police station have registered cases for the incidents on terrorism charges, police officials said.

“Judging by the nature of the blasts, the two incidents appear to be carried out by the same culprits,” a senior police official, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune. “It is possible that the blasts might be linked with operation against militants in tribal areas but investigations into the incidents are still ongoing.”

The explosions on Saturday were the first attacks in the capital since April 9 when the Islamabad vegetable market was rocked by a powerful bomb blast, which killed 25 people and injured over 100 others.

Since Wednesday, the army has launched a series of aerial strikes in North Waziristan, killing at least 64 people. The law-enforcement agencies in the twin cities have been put on high alert to deal with any hostilities from militants in urban areas. The interior minister has also ordered the Rangers to assist police in patrolling as part of a Rapid Response Force from next week.

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