By Sadaqat Ali, Raja Atif Zulfiqar & Shakeel Qarar
RAWALPINDI: One loud blast was heard on the busy Mall Road in Saddar, Rawalpindi, around 10:40 a.m. Monday and an eyewitness said that there was a second blast immediately after.
The blast claimed 34 lives while 45 people were injured in the blast. The injured were taken to hospitals.
RPO Aslam Tarin told SAMAA that it could not yet be confirmed how much explosive material was used. Rescue 1122 has confirmed 34 deaths so far, including that of a woman and one army officer. Approximately 50 people have been injured so far. Many more casualties are feared but it is difficult to estimate the exact number of casualties because many of the bodies are torn to pieces. Sources in the police told SAMAA that there were atleast 35 immediate deaths. Hospital sources have confirmed 13 deaths. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that he fears that the death toll will cross 20.
Ambulances are moving the injured to the Combined Military Hospital, Raja Bazaar's Civil Hospital, Rawalpindi and others.
Civil Defense Chief Inspector Talib Husain and SPO Traffic Ishtiaq Shah both confirmed that one bomb was on a motorcycle parked in the NBP parking lot. However, it is not clear how the motorcyclist avoided the security in the area. The GHQ, recently taken hostage by terrorists, is only 500 yards away. PC Hotel is also next door. The bomb went off in front of the gate of Shalimar Hotel and the cash counter of the branch of the National Bank of Pakistan across the road. The hotel's gate and front has been destroyed in the explosion, which was heard across the city.
There are no details available on where the second blast took place or what damage was caused.
Husain said that the police are clearing the area of remnants of shells and searching for any bombs in the area. Heavy contingents of elite forces have cordoned off the area and the immediate area around the blast site has been cleared of bystanders, journalists and even most security agencies. A tent has been put up around the blast site. The security cover in the area is much tighter than usual and army officers have said that this is firstly because of the large number of casualties and secondly to prevent a second attack on the GHQ.
The Cantt area has been sealed off after a copy of the attacker's ID card was found.
Eyewitnesses said that there were approximately 150 people lined up outside the bank's cash counter, waiting to collecting their salaries. An eyewitness, Salmaan Asad Khan, told SAMAA that there were many bodies lying scattered in the parking area, a few whole, but mostly torn to pieces. "I could not look. There were so many bodies lying there, including many women and children. A mother and a small child were lying dead in a car," he said. "Many of bodies were naked because the clothes they had been wearing were burned off. I myself have covered atleast 35 bodies."
The blast comes as the army is involved in a massive offensive against Taliban militants in South Waziristan.
There have been several retaliatory attacks since the offensive began last month, including a deadly car bomb blast in the city of Peshawar on Wednesday that killed approximately 120 people.SAMAA