Bomber targets senior Pakistani policeman; 8 dead

AP News
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Posted: Sep 19, 2011 3:31 PM
Bomber targets senior Pakistani policeman; 8 dead

A Taliban suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives Monday outside the home of a senior police officer tasked with cracking down on militants in Pakistan's largest city. The blast killed at least eight people and left a crater 10 feet (3 meters) deep, police said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the early morning attack in the southern port city of Karachi. The target of the bombing, Chaudhry Aslam, escaped unscathed and said he would not be cowed by the attack.

"This is a cowardly act," Aslam told local television. "I'm not scared. I will not spare them."

Aslam is a top police officer in the Crime Investigation Department, which works to arrest Taliban fighters and other militants in Karachi, a bustling city that is home to some 18 million people and is also Pakistan's main commercial hub.

The eight people killed included six policemen guarding Aslam's house and a schoolteacher and her son who were passing by, Karachi police chief Saud Mirza said. He estimated that at least 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of explosives were used in the attack.

The death toll could have been even worse if it had happened a few minutes later when many children head to schools located near Aslam's house in the Defense neighborhood of Karachi, an upscale residential area that rarely experiences militant attacks or other forms of violence that plague the city.

Karachi has not seen as many militant attacks as other major cities in Pakistan, but it is believed to be home to many Taliban militants who have fled army operations in the northwest near the Afghan border.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for Monday's attack.

"We will continue targeting all such officers who are involved in the killing of our comrades," Ahsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Local television footage showed extensive damage from the blast. The fronts of several two-story concrete buildings were totally blown away. Rubble littered the streets amid the burned wreckage of cars hit by the explosion.

"Thank God it was half an hour before school time," former Pakistani cricket team captain Moin Khan said. He passed by the site of the attack shortly after the blast.

"It was horrible. I saw four bodies," Khan said. "Broken pieces of vehicles were scattered more than 100 feet."

In a separate attack, a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded Monday night in a market in the northwestern city of Peshawar where several shops sell music and movies, said police officer Imtiaz Khan. The bomb, which contained 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of explosives and was detonated by remote control, killed five people and wounded 35 others, said police officer Abdul Sattar Khan.

Militants have in the past targeted shops in Pakistan that sell music and movies for being anti-Islamic under their strict interpretation of the religion.

Also Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said soldiers seized the wreckage of a suspected U.S. drone that crashed in the South Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border and was initially snatched by the Taliban.

Troops fought the militants for roughly 24 hours and eventually called in helicopter gunships to wrest control of the wreckage, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Eight militants were killed and three soldiers were wounded in the fighting, they said.

Ahsan, the Taliban spokesman, confirmed the army had seized control of the wreckage, but denied any militants had died in the fighting. He claimed the Taliban shot down the drone Saturday night using an anti-aircraft gun.

Intelligence officials said army engineers were inspecting the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

Neither the army nor the U.S. Embassy has responded to requests for comment on the crash.

The U.S. normally does not acknowledge the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan, but U.S. officials have said privately that the attacks have killed many high-level militants. Drone crashes have happened before in Pakistan, but they are rare.

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Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Rasool Dawar and Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this report from Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.