ISLAMABAD- At least 24 people were killed and over 50 others injured in a powerful explosion at the fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad today.
According to Police officials, explosives were planted in fruit crates at the Sabzi Mandi market in I-11 sector near the Pir Wadhai, Rawalpindi. The bomb went off as morning shoppers were buying supplies at the market. Talking to journalists, Acting Inspector general Islamabad, Khalid Khattak said that there was no prior information about the attack from the intelligence sources. He said that hundreds of trucks carrying vegetables and fruits arrive at the Sabzi Mandi everyday and it was possible for the police to check each and every truck. He said that four to five kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast which left a 2-foot crater at the site and littered the area with bloody body parts. The explosives were reportedly planted in a crate of fruit, he added. He said initial enquiry has been kicked off into the incident and evidences had been collected from the blast site where 1500 to 2000 people, mostly grocers and sellers, were present. Assistant Inspector General Islamabad Police Sultan Azam Taimuri told State run Radio Pakistan that five kgs explosive was used in the blast. He said the material was planted in the fruit's crate.
The bodies and the injured were shifted to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and other hospital in Rawalpindi where an emergency was immediately declared. The spokesperson of the hospital told that some of the injured were in critical condition. Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Vice Chancellor Prof. Javed Akram said 31 people were still under treatment at the hospital and that most of the wounded were adult men. Around 25 injured were also taken to in various hospitals in Rawalpindi. According to rescue sources, 13 vehicles were damaged in the explosion.
Security officials and the police have cordoned off the area and the Bomb Disposal Squad was combing the area for other explosive devices. Meanwhile police claimed to have arrested a suspect from Islamabad’s vegetable market, minutes after a bomb blast. No group has yet claimed responsibility of the attack.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have condemned the blast. Nisar also asked for a report regarding the explosion. Other political leaders including PTI chairman Imran Khan, JI Ameer Sarajul Haq, PPP co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have also strongly condemned the blast.
A number of traders told journalists that there had been several bomb blasts and firing incidents in the fruit and vegetable market in the last two years. They said despite their repeated demands adequate security has not been provided where people from all over Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, FATA and Punjab come for sale and purchase of fruits and vegetables. According to reports, Intelligence sources had first alerted the police and government officials on April 3, 2014 that possible terrorist attacks in Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta were being planned by militants who oppose the peace talks between government and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “Law enforcing agencies will be the main target of the terrorists, and in the case of their failure, any other official installation or public place,” one official said.
Security sources say the scenario looks similar to the terrorist attacks that quickly followed the announcement of a month-long ceasefire by the TTP last month. The most audacious of them was the bomb-and-gun attack on the district courts complex in Islamabad on March 3, 2014 which was claimed by Ahrarul Hind group.