At least eight people were killed, including six policemen, after a Taliban suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into the home of a senior police official in Pakistan’s commercial hub Karachi.
The six policemen were guarding the home of Karachi’s Senior Superintendent of Police Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam, who survived the attack, said police official Naeem Shaikh, adding that a woman and a child were also killed in the blast in which police said 300 kgs (136 lbs) of explosives were used.
Aslam told reporters that he has received threats from militant groups, including Pakistani Taliban insurgents, who are close to al Qaeda, Reuters reports.
“I was sleeping when they carried out this cowardly act and rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into my house,” said Aslam at the scene of the blast. “I will not be cowed. I will teach a lesson to generations of militants.”
Pakistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying Aslam had arrested and killed many of its fighters.
“We will attack other police officials as well who are taking action against our people,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He went on to name five Karachi police officials on the Taliban hit list.
The assault broke a lull in militant violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city that is home to ports, the main stock exchange and central bank.
“My daughter was preparing to go to school when all of a sudden the explosion occurred. My daughter started crying and I ran out of house to see what has happened,” said Mohammad Imran, one of Aslam’s neighbours.
“I saw a cloud of smoke rising in the sky. Our children are traumatised. Our families are disturbed. There is no security.”
The blast left an eight-foot crater and much of Aslam’s house was destroyed. Cement blocks, cars parts, broken chairs and pieces of shattered beds were strewn at the scene.
At a Karachi hospital, two victims of the attack wrapped in cloth lay on a bed.
Aslam is a well-known police officer who led many high-profile raids on everyone from suspected al Qaeda cells in safehouses to some of Karachi’s most hardened criminals.
Karachi is Pakistan’s most unstable city. Aside from militancy, it is plagued by ethnic and political violence which has reached its worst level in 15 years, prompting calls for the military to step in.
REVENGE FOR BIN LADEN’S DEATH
Karachi contributes 25 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and is the country’s main industrial base.
Any high-profile bombings could scare away investors who are badly needed to strengthen Pakistan’s weak economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid.
But there are only about 33,000 policemen in the city of 18 million. Most of them are underpaid and are outgunned by criminals and militants armed with machineguns, AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Several slums on the edge of Karachi are described as no-go zones that are too risky for police and security forces.
Karachi is also a major transit point for supplies for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, so any upheaval could undermine efforts to pacify the Afghan Taliban next door.
The Pakistani Taliban, who vowed to avenge the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistan, have stepped up pressure on the U.S.-backed government with a series of suicide bombings.
The group embarrassed Pakistan’s military with an attack on a navy base in Karachi in May after the bin Laden death. As few as six Taliban gunmen took on security forces in a 16-hour standoff.
Last year, a Taliban suicide car bombing in Karachi gutted the compound of the Crime Investigation Department, which focussed on apprehending militants.