16 Killed, 76 Injured as Fruit Crate Bomb Explodes in Pakistan Market

Published September 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

At least 16 people were killed and 76 injured Tuesday as a powerful bomb ripped through a crowded Islamabad market in a rare attack on the Pakistani capital, police and hospital officials said. 

"The bomb packed in a crate exploded when workers were unloading fruit from a truck" in Islamabad's main fruit and vegetable market, said city police chief Nasir Durrani. 

The device, planted in a grape box, was "quite powerful" he said. "The blast appears to be a terrorist act," he said, adding it was too early to identify the culprits. 

The victims were mostly traders and customers surrounding the truck. 

Durrani said the bomb was loaded in one of four trucks coming from the northwestern tribal town of Sadda, bordering Afghanistan. 

The truck drivers have been included in the investigation, he said. 

Witnesses said more than 300 people had gathered at an open place in the wholesale market to participate in the usual early morning auction of fruit. 

"I was carrying a crate to a store when I heard a big blast and soon thick black smoke engulfed the area. I fell unconscious," said Mohammad Mushtaq, one of the injured at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS) here. 

Eight people died on the spot while doctors at PIMS, which received most of the casualties, said two more died later. 

"At least 45 people with serious injuries have been admitted, 10 of them are in critical condition," PIMS official Saeed Ahmed, told AFP. 

Some 14 blast victims were rushed to the city's Polyclinic Hospital. Four of them died from their injuries while another 17 were admitted to the Holy Family Hospital in the nearby city of Rawalpindi. 

"Two people with blown up legs expired later due to excessive bleeding," Doctor Tauseeq Ahmed of the Holy Family Hospital told AFP. 

Military ruler General Pervez Musharraf condemned "the dastardly act of terrorism" and expressed shock and grief at the loss of lives. 

Officials said he had directed authorities to track down the culprits and award them "exemplary punishment." 

The blast, during the rush hour in the heavily-guarded Pakistani capital, came as the authorities beefed up security after a bomb explosion in the eastern city of Lahore. 

Seven people were killed and 24 injured in the September 7 blast in Lahore's crowded bazaar. 

Other big cities and towns have been rocked in the past but "it is not very common in Islamabad," a western diplomat said, referring to tight security in the city. 

"It is becoming dangerous," said the diplomat, who did not want to be identified. 

An AFP photographer said victims' shoes were scattered everywhere, as relief teams battled to help the wounded. 

"Fruit crates stained with blood and grapes were lying in a vast area ringed by security forces," he said. 

Around 30 bombs have hit Pakistan this year, claiming more than two dozen lives. No one has claimed responsibility. 

Punjab provincial governor Mohammad Safdar earlier this month blamed Indian intelligence for recent blasts. 

"Indian intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agents are sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan," he told reporters after the Lahore blast. 

Pakistani border rangers last month arrested an "Indian-sponsored" gang of terrorists. Officials said the agents, trained and paid by RAW for each blast, have "confessed" to carrying out a series of bomb attacks. 

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir, the Himalayan state divided between the two countries and claimed by both. 

The neighbours routinely accuse rival intelligence networks of carrying out cross-border sabotage and subversion -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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