According to news agencies, there was a major attack in central Karachi, killing at least 15 people and injuring 40 (though this number is quickly changing). The “massive explosion,” which was heard up to two kilometers away, reportedly targeted the DIG Criminal Investigation Department (CID) office in central Karachi, an extremely fortified area of the city. According to Express 24/7, the CID had arrested members of “banned outfits” on Wednesday, implying this may have been the reason for the attack. A police liaison committee spokesman told Al Jazeera English that this was “the biggest ever blast” in the city.
According to Express’ correspondent, the casualty numbers are increasing due to the blasts but also because the bombing caused the collapse of a number of nearby houses (at least 15-20 houses, colony houses, and 2-3 commercial shops were destroyed). Numerous people are still trapped under the rubble in the aftermath of the attack, and ambulances are currently on the scene.
Both Express and AJE emphasized that this attack is surprising because it’s considered the “red zone” of Karachi – a heavily fortified area populated by the city’s hotels, the Sindh Chief Minister’s house, and numerous restaurants and commercial outlets. According to Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, “This area should have been more secure.”
Although Karachi has been struck by recent politically-driven and ethnic violence, news correspondents say the blasts had nothing to do with this trend, and is more consistent with militant attacks in Pakistan, [Imran Khan compared it to the 2008 Marriott attack in Islamabad]. The question, noted the news agency, is how someone could get a device of that size in Karachi, and how they could so easily attack the CID office, which was housing “high-value” targets.
There is the possibility of a second blast, noted Express.
CHUP will continue to update this space with more details as they come in.
UPDATE 1125 EST: The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, but from a personal perspective I think we should be cautious in making blanket statements about perpetrators of this attack, particularly since “Taliban” is a very simplistic term. The death toll, according to Express 24/7: 11 killed, over 100 injured [correspondent says that the rate of people coming into Jinnah hospital has "slowed down."]
UPDATE 1131 EST: According to Express, five armed gunmen began firing indiscriminately before “ramming their vehicle” into the CID building, causing the explosion.
UPDATE 1140 EST: Video from Express 24/7:
UPDATE 1345 EST: According to the Express Tribune‘s Ahmed Jung, “sources claimed that the CID had received a bomb threat yesterday (Wednesday). CID had arrested a high profile terrorist ‘Iqbal’ belonging to the Mehsud tribe yesterday and had received a threat in that regard.” Al Jazeera English reported, “A group of fighters first opened fire on the building before detonating a bomb in the compound of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), leaving a crater of about 12 metres across and four metres deep in front of the site.”
Pakistan Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq further affirmed to CNN that the Taliban carried out the attack, noting, “We will continue such attacks as long as military operations continue against us.”
[Personal thought] Again, if the CID conducted arrests of high-profile militants yesterday, we have to think that the logistics that would go into such an attack in a highly fortified area would be pretty extensive, if it was indeed motivated by those arrests. Therefore, the attacks were either connected indirectly to the arrests and/or had been planned beforehand, OR the Taliban wasn’t directly responsible for the logistics, but it relied on groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi, etc. who have more extensive networks in urban areas, to carry it out.
UPDATE 1740 [EST]: The current death toll stands at 15 people, with more than 100 injured. According to Express 24/7, “200kg of explosives were used in the blast. The police also reportedly found hand grenades at the site of the blast.” Huma Imtiaz wrote for the NY Times,
There were suspicions that the attack was a reprisal for a recent series of arrests of militants. Babar Khattak, a top police official, said that the police counterterrorism unit had arrested nine militants in the past few days. But there were conflicting reports about whether the suspects were in the compound at the time of the attack. Mr. Khattak said they were not, but Fayyaz Leghari, Karachi’s police chief, said that several militant suspects were there.