x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Taliban suicide bomber targets Karachi anti-terror police official

Car bomber flattens house of senior Pakistani counter-terrorism police officer, killing eight people including a schoolboy, his mother and six policemen. as intended target escapes unhurt.

Pakistani investigators inspect the crater caused by a bomb blast in Karachi yesterday when eight people were killed and several more wounded in a car bomb attack targeting a senior policeman. Rizwan Tabassum / AFP Photo
Pakistani investigators inspect the crater caused by a bomb blast in Karachi yesterday when eight people were killed and several more wounded in a car bomb attack targeting a senior policeman. Rizwan Tabassum / AFP Photo

KARACHI // A Taliban suicide car bomber flattened the house of a senior counter-terrorism police officer in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi yesterday, killing eight people including six policemen.

The senior superintendent, Aslam Khan, escaped unhurt, but his home was destroyed and he said he knew he was the target, saying he had been threatened by Al Qaeda-allied Pakistani Taliban.

The Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for the attack and said Mr Khan had been targeted for arresting, torturing and killing Taliban members.

It was the worst militant attack in Karachi, a city of 18 million, for months. But it was the fourth attack since April in the Defence neighbourhood, an upmarket area once far removed from the sort of violence seen along the north-western Afghan border.

Mr Khan heads the counter-terrorism unit of the Police Crime Investigation Department in Karachi, investigating militant cells in the port city, which is a vital hub for Afghan-bound Nato supplies.

"It was a car-bomb attack on my house," he said. "I was receiving threats from Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Taliban are involved in this attack."

Neighbouring houses were also wrecked and four cars badly damaged, with a two-metre deep crater in front of Mr Khan's home, and rubble, mud and pieces of glass scattered over a large area, a witness said.

"Eight people including six policemen have been killed and several others were wounded," Shoukat Hussain, another senior police officer, said. "A child and a woman were also killed. It was a car suicide attack."

Speaking to reporters outside the remains of his bungalow, Mr Khan said: "I woke up from sleep and saw fire around. I ran towards the other rooms of the house and saw my family safe but bewildered.

"This was a cowardly act of Taliban. I am not scared of Taliban. Let me tell you that I will not spare them in future."

The Karachi police chief, Saud Mirza, confirmed that Mr Khan had received TTP threats, including one recent written threat.

The TTP spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said: "We claim responsibility for the attack. Aslam Khan has killed a number of our colleagues and also arrested and tortured many more.

"He was on our hit list and he is still on our hit list," Mr Ehsan said, giving names of several other police and crime investigation department officials also targeted.

"They will be killed soon," he said.

Naeem Shaikh said he was taking his children to school when he heard a huge explosion.

"I went across a lane and saw this house destroyed and huge flames around it," said Mr Shaikh, who lives in the area.

He saw the bodies of a boy, later identified as a second-year school pupil aged eight or nine, and his mother lying near the house.

"The boy's schoolbag was lying abandoned nearby," Mr Shaikh said, choking.

Nearly 4,700 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked networks based in the country's north-western tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

In May, Pakistani Taliban besieged Karachi's only naval airbase for 17 hours, destroying two US-made surveillance planes and killing 10 personnel.

Yesterday's attack was the fourth since April in the wealthy and heavily-guarded Defence neighbourhood, where a navy bus was bombed, grenades thrown at the Saudi consulate and a Saudi diplomat also killed.

Mr Hussain, the police official, said the force would now step up security for counter-terrorism officers.

"We had some general threat perception, but no specific knowledge about such incidents," he said.

Karachi has this year seen its worst ethnic and politically linked unrest in 16 years, with more than 100 people killed in one week last month.

The gang wars have been linked to ethnic tensions between the Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking majority represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and Pashtun migrants affiliated to the rival Awami National Party.

The main ruling Pakistan People's Party, which was elected in 2008 after nine years of military rule, insists that civilian authorities are capable of controlling the bloodshed, despite calls for military intervention.