KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A blast apparently caused by a suicide vest stored in a house in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi killed eight suspected militants Friday, underscoring the city’s use by insurgents bent on destabilizing the nuclear-armed, U.S.-allied country.
The explosion occurred in Baldia, a mostly ethnic Pashtun neighborhood where many militants are suspected to be hiding out, police Chief Wasim Ahmad told The Associated Press. TV footage showed police seizing guns, suicide vests and grenades from the site.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said some people from the northwestern Swat Valley, a region where the army has waged an offensive against the Taliban, were believed to have been staying at the house along with some guests, but said the investigation was ongoing.
Local resident Noor Mohammed said he rushed to the scene just after the explosion and saw some of the dead men were wearing camouflage jackets. He said some men moved into the house about three months ago.
Blood was splattered around the walls of the front room of the house, whose roof and walls were damaged. Some body parts were visible in the rubble.
Senior police official Raja Omar Khatab said the blast may have been caused by a jacket laced with explosives that is used by suicide attackers. Police found militant literature, but it was unclear who the suspects were, he said.
Fayyaz Khan, another senior police officer, said eight bodies were recovered and at least two people taken into custody at the scene.
On Dec. 28, a bomb attack on a minority Shiite Muslim religious procession in Karachi killed 43 people and wounded dozens. But the city, Pakistan’s most populous, has largely been spared the Taliban-linked violence that has struck much of the rest of the country, something analysts say may be because of the group’s tendency to use it as a place to rest and raise money.
Still, Karachi has a long history of violence, much of it driven by ethnic tensions between Pashtuns and Urdu-speaking descendants of refugees from British-colonial India.
Malik said authorities plan to crack down on “illegal immigrants” in Karachi — a possible reference to Afghans, many of them Pashtun, who reside in vast settlements on the city’s outskirts. He said such illegal immigrants should leave the city in the next 15 days.
Most of the militant violence in Pakistan is centered in its northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, which are home to a number of insurgent groups, some of them rivals.
Early Friday, a suicide bombing at a facility of the Ansarul-Islam militant group in the Khyber tribal region killed at least one person and wounded 11, local government official Farooq Khan said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Ansarul Islam has long clashed with another Islamist group in the area, Lashkar-e-Islam.
In the Pakistani capital Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani complained to a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers about new U.S. airport security measures that single out travelers who are citizens of, or are flying from, 14 countries including Pakistan.
The more stringent standards — which include full-body patdowns — were imposed after an attempted bombing of a plane heading to Detroit by a Nigerian suspected of al-Qaida ties.
Gilani called the standards discriminatory and said Pakistan should be off the list, according to a statement from his office.
The congressional delegation included Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman. During a news briefing prior to a session with Gilani, McCain and Lieberman stressed their support for U.S. missile strikes on Pakistani territory.
The strikes are controversial in Pakistan, where the government argues they are a violation of its sovereignty and kill too many innocent civilians. The United States does not acknowledge being behind the attacks, but officials have said they are a critical tool in killing militant leaders.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Nahal Toosi in Islamabad contributed to this report.