Karachi, Pakistan – Taliban fighters attacked an anti-terrorism police compound today, killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 100 here in Pakistan’s largest city, according to police and hospital sources.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Karachi’s Crime Investigation Department. It comes a day after police in Karachi arrested TTP militant Iqbal Bajouri and six other suspected militants from the Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
“They just want to tell us that they are still alive and could strike back,” says Omar Shahid, the senior superintendent of police at the Crime Investigation Department.
Explosion Heard Miles Around
Militants opened fire and then rammed a truck laden with some 1,000 kilograms of explosives into the police compound, which is only hundreds of meters away from the United States consulate, the provincial chief minister’s residence, and numerous luxury hotels. The truck was driven by one suicide bomber. Police officials say they have taken seven people into custody for questioning.
Heard from miles around, the massive explosion collapsed the police compound and seriously damaged adjacent residential buildings, which were covered by smoke and clouds of dust. Hours later, witnesses told the Monitor that rescue work was still under way to help people buried under debris.
The attack underscores the ties between jihadi groups in Pakistan’s biggest metropolis and Al Qaeda and Taliban operating out of the tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are 250 to 300 trained LeJ fighters operating in Karachi and most of them have received training in Waziristan, according to the militants who were arrested Wednesday, says Mr. Shahid.
“We have been ordered to carry out attacks against the enemies,” a militant said, according to Shahid. “If our enemies can target us in the daylight then nights are long and belong to us,” the militant said.
“Karachi is the Jugular”
Karachi has long served as a safe haven for Taliban and jihadi outfits and has also remained a flashpoint for ethnic, political, and sectarian violence. Hundreds of people have lost their lives since January in ongoing infighting between ethnic and political parties over the control of the city.
Today’s attack does not seem related to the ongoing killings in Karachi but it could further complicate the fragile security situation here.
“These local jihadi outfits provide oxygen to Al Qaeda and Taliban,” says Jameel Yusuf, a Karachi-based security analyst. “The local militant outfits provide fighters and suicide bombers to Al Qaeda and Taliban. And if the police come hard on local militant outfits, then their masters will also feel the pain.”
With a population of 160 million, the port city of Karachi generates more than 60 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.
“Karachi is the jugular of Pakistan,” says provincial official Sharafuddin Memon. “Terrorists want to paralyze it but we won’t let It happen. We will come much harder on them.”
But Mr. Yusuf warns of a long fight ahead. “It might be a beginning and the battle seems quite long,” he says.