Car bomb blast at Bible society

A powerful car bomb blew up outside a Christian Bible society in Pakistan today, wounding 15 people, damaging the wall of a nearby church and shattering parked cars.

The attack in the southern port city of Karachi occurred after police received an anonymous phone call warning that the Pakistan Bible Society would be targeted, said police operations chief Tariq Jameel.

He said that shortly after the officers arrived, assailants in a car drove up and lobbed a small explosive device at them.

Fifteen minutes later, a bomb hidden in a nearby parked car exploded, Jameel said. Twelve people, among them six police and paramilitary officers, were injured, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where many victims were taken.

Syed Kamal Shah, the chief of police of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, said 15 people were injured in the explosions.

Police released sketches of two men suspected of involvement in the attack based on a witness account and the Sindh government announced a reward of 1 million rupees ($22,600) for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators, Shah said.

At least 10 nearby cars were destroyed in the attack.

“We were investigating the first explosion when the second explosion occurred. It was a sudden and huge explosion,” said Mohammed Iqbal, 40, a deputy superintendent of the Rangers, a paramilitary force.

Iqbal spoke from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds to his right arm, neck and chest.

Salim Khursheed Khokhar, a local Christian leader, said two workers at the Bible centre were injured by flying glass and the wall of the nearby Trinity Church was badly damaged.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, said the attack had raised concerns across the country.

“This terrorist act has increased the sense of insecurity among Christians. We are shocked, grieved and worried,” he said. “These people are hell-bent on creating anarchy in the country.”

Pakistan’s Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also condemned the attack and blamed Islamic militants.

“The noose is tightening around them therefore they are carrying out these activities,” he said. The motive for the attack was not immediately known, and the assailants got away.

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and its industrial and manufacturing heart, has been the site of several terrorist attacks in recent years, as well as bouts of sectarian and political violence.

In June 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a truck in front of the US Consulate, killing 14 Pakistanis. The attack came a month after another suicide attack outside a hotel that killed 11 French engineers.

In September 2002, seven people were killed when gunmen burst into a Christian society in Karachi called the Institute of Peace and Justice, tied up everyone inside and shot them execution-style.

There have been a series of smaller blasts as well, including a July explosion in a building that killed two, and small explosions at 18 Shell petrol stations in May that wounded four employees. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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