RAWALPINDI - Five people, including two lieutenant colonels, were killed in a suicide attack on a vehicle of the Pakistan Army at a railway crossing on Pindi Road in Feteh Jang, some 25km from the federal capital.
The martyred army personnel were identified as Lt-Col Zahir Shah and Lt-Col Arshad Hussain.
Their double-cabin vehicle and a rickshaw moving very close to it were destroyed badly in the suicide hit. Rickshaw driver Muhammad Saleem also died in the attack.
However, the authorities did not release the names of other two deceased. A source disclosed to The Nation that two others were the driver and guard of army officers.
Those who sustained injuries were Noor Saleem, Gull Saleem, Muhammad Khan, Ghulam Shabbir, Akbar Ali, Najib and Shabbir. All were rushed to Tehsil Headquarters (THQ) Hospital Fateh Jang for treatment.
Nonetheless, a staff officer of Regional Police Officer (RPO) Akhtar Umar Hayyat Lalyka told The Nation that three people including two army officers died in the blast while four others sustained injuries.
Heavy contingent of police, Pakistan Army and officials of other law enforcement agencies cordoned off the blast site.
The suicide hit occurred in the jurisdiction of Fateh Jang Police Station. A team of bomb disposal squad (BDS) of Pakistan Army reached the spot and collected evidence. The body parts (head and leg) of suicide bomber were also recovered and sent for forensic examination. A security official, seeking anonymity, said that the suicide bomber appeared to be an Uzbek.
According to details, the attack took place at 9:15am when a suicide bomber targeted army’s white-coloured double cabin which was on a routine patrol with four personnel including two military officers on board.
Lt-Col Arshad and three civilians including the rickshaw driver were killed on the spot while the other military officer Lt-Col Zahir Shah and seven others sustained critical injuries in the blast.
All were shifted to hospital where Lt-Col Zahir Shah succumbed to death. The condition of other injured was also critical.
The explosion was heard miles away, creating panic. An eyewitness said the suicide bomber was aged between 16 to 17.
“The suicide bomber was hiding in bushes near the railway track. As the vehicle of military officers reduced its speed on the railway crossing, the suicide bomber swiftly ran towards the vehicle and within no time exploded his vest with a bang,” he added.
Another eyewitness added that the rickshaw driver’s two brothers travelling along were maimed.
Army officers and personnel of other LEAs and BDS took over the scene and collected evidence.
A detailed search operation was also launched by LEAs in nearby localities of the blast site including hotels, restaurants and houses but no arrest was made.
The suicide bombing took place on a route used by containers for supplying food and other equipment to Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted after the blast, “Two military officers and three civilians were killed today when a suicide bomber hit their vehicle near Rawalpindi.” He also named the martyred officers.
Meanwhile, funeral of Col Muhammad Zahir and Colonel Arshad Hussain was offered in Chaklala Garrison.
PM Nawaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mehmood and a large number of military personnel and people from all walks of life attended funeral.
Later, the martyrs’ bodies were sent to their ancestral towns where they will be buried with full military honour.
Agencies add: A spokesman for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the suicide bombing near Fateh Jang was carried out by TTP attackers to protest ‘the killing of seven TTP activists in Karachi’ and ‘the killing of Taliban prisoners in jail’.
The bombing comes in the wake of military action and airstrikes in the North Waziristan tribal region.
The attack is also likely to cast another blow to the currently hampered peace process with the TTP.
The two parties had even managed to agree on a ceasefire which lasted for 40 days but wasn’t renewed in the wake of bomb blasts in parts of the country.