A group of heavily armed Pakistani Taliban militants detonated an explosive-laden truck at the office of the CID spearheading the drive against terrorists in the southern port city of Karachi, killing at least 18 people and injuring 115 others.
The attackers initially exchanged fire with guards outside the office of the Crime Investigation Department, located in a high security zone at a short distance from the chief minister's official residence and several five-star hotels and consulates.
After getting past a barricade and disrupting power in the area, the attackers detonated the explosives-laden truck at 2017 hrs (local time).
The powerful blast destroyed the facade of the CID office and reduced the nearby Civil Lines police station to rubble. It also uprooted trees, blew out windows of nearby structures and shook buildings located several kilometres away.
Officials told the media that at least 18 people were killed and 115 others injured. The dead included several policemen and security personnel.
The relatives of policemen, including women and children, living in nearby residential quarters were among the injured. Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza compared the attack to the suicide car bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed nearly 60 people in September 2008. Guards who tried to stop the attackers were among those killed, Mirza said.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the blast and warned it would carry out more attacks if its demands were not met, Geo News channel reported.
It could not immediately be ascertained whether the attackers were killed in the blast. There were conflicting reports on the number of militants involved in the attack, with figures ranging from two to four.
Witnesses said some of the attackers were riding motorcycles. The blast created a crater 15 to 20 feet wide and equally deep. It damaged about 50 cars, a mosque and several government buildings and private residences.
Witnesses said the explosion blew out the windows of the chief minister's residence and hotels.
Rescue operations were hampered by lack of electricity and people dug through rubble with their hands to pull out the dead and injured.
The area around the CID office was cordoned off and an emergency was declared in Karachi's hospitals.
On Wednesday, the CID had arrested several militants, including six members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), as part of an ongoing crackdown on terrorism. Home Minister Mirza said the LeJ operatives were not in the CID office at the time of the attack.
Geo News channel reported that authorities had issued a warning a month ago that the CID office could be targeted in a terrorist attack. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack. He ordered authorities to conduct an immediate inquiry into the incident.
In 2002 suicide bombers had also struck Hotel Sheraton in Karachi, killing 12 French Naval technicians after which the government had declared the area as red zone with high security alert.