Pakistani Taliban target senior police official in Karachi bombing

ISLAMABAD — A suicide bomber driving an explosive laden car rammed into the house of a senior counter-terrorism official Monday in the southern city of Karachi, killing eight people but the officer survived, officials said.

The powerful bomb, at around 7:40 a.m. local time, at the house of Chaudhry Aslam, was claimed by the al Qaida-linked Pakistani Taliban, devastated the home and surrounding area. Six of his police guards died, along with a mother and her eight-year-old son who were on their way to a nearby school.

Aslam, who has survived multiple assassination attempts in the past and is a legend in the Karachi police, is a senior officer with the counter-terrorism branch of the police in Karachi. The city is notorious for ethnic gang violence, with attacks by religious extremists still relatively rare in Pakistan's biggest city. Last year however, terrorists blew up an office of the counter-terrorism police in Karachi, which is considered among the most effective police forces in the country in tackling extremist violence.

"While I have a drop of blood left in me, I will continue to fight terrorism," said a visibly angry Aslam, at the scene of the blast, confirming that he had been receiving threats. "I never thought these people would stoop so low as to attack sleeping children. Just wait, these terrorists will see what I do to them."

If the bomb had exploded a little later, there would likely have been many casualties at the nearby school, which was not yet open.

The attackers' knowledge of Aslam's home will concern the authorities. Karachi's 33,000 police officers have to patrol a volatile city of some 18 million people, which is plagued by inter-ethnic violence. Thousands of Karachi's police have been assassinated since the 1980s, when a cycle of violence in the city erupted.

Mansoor Wasan, the interior minister of the provincial government, said that 64 police officers had been killed in 2011.

"These attackers want to envelop the whole of Pakistan in terrorism," said Wasan.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, taking responsibility for the attack, told reporters that "We will attack other police officials as well who are taking action against our people."

The blast blew out the front of Aslam's house, in the upscale neighborhood of Defence, which is considered among Karachi's safest places. It left the street a wreck, with all the surrounding homes badly damaged, and over dozen mangled cars and motorbikes were strewn on the road. A large crater showed the spot where the vehicle exploded.

The Karachi city police chief, Saud Mirza, visiting the site, said that at least 300 kg of explosive had been packed into the vehicle.

"He (Aslam) is the one who's been at the forefront of the work against the Taliban," said Mirza.

The Pakistani Taliban, based in the tribal area, which borders Afghanistan in the north west, have a terrorist network that stretches across the country, including cells in Karachi. Since 2007, the group, which works closely with al Qaida, has led an Islamist insurrection in the tribal area and a terrorist bombing campaign across Pakistan.

Most of the supplies to the U.S.-led international coalition in Afghanistan pass through the port of Karachi, which this year has suffered a cycle of tit-for-tat ethnically motivated killings.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban carried out a suicide attack at the home of a senior security official in the western city of Quetta, killing at least 23 people, though the intended target survived.


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Saeed Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.

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