(Updated: 6:30 GMT)
Bomb hits Pakistan navy bus in Karachi, 5 dead
KARACHI, Pakistan – A roadside bomb hit a bus taking Pakistani navy employees to work in Karachi on Thursday, killing five people in the third such attack this week and just days after the army chief claimed to have "broken the backbone" of militants.
The series of attacks in the country's largest city and economic heart show the determination and reach of al-Qaida-linked extremist networks despite American-backed Pakistani army offensives against their main bases in the northwest close to the Afghan border.
The early morning blast mangled the bus and damaged nearby buildings. Four of the dead were sailors, while the fifth was a passer-by, said navy spokesman Salman Ali and Seemi Jamali, a doctor at the city's Jinnah Hospital. Five people were wounded.
On Tuesday, remote-controlled blasts 15 minutes apart in different parts of Karachi ripped through two navy buses, killing four navy personnel. The Pakistani Taliban — the country's deadliest militant group — claimed responsibility for the attacks, and warned of more unless the army stopped its campaigns in the northwest.
Karachi is home to 18 million people and is the economic heart of Pakistan. It is far from the northwest, but has not been spared the Islamist violence wracking the country over the last four years. The Pakistan navy is based in the city, which is on the Arabian Sea.
The army has launched several offensives in the northwest, but bombings against government and security force targets, as well as indiscriminate attacks on public places, have continued. The Pakistani Taliban have little direct public support, but their identification with Islam, strong anti-American rhetoric and support for insurgents in Afghanistan resonates with some.
Last Saturday, Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told graduating cadets that their force had "broken the backbone" of the militants. Those comments followed American criticism of the army campaign, which has struggled to hold border areas it has retaken from the insurgents.
A blast has hit a bus carrying navy officials in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, wounding at least 15 people in the third such strike this week.
The attack took place in the early hours of the morning in the Karsaz area of the city.
Two days ago, Taliban militants attacked two buses carrying Pakistani naval staff, leaving four people dead and 56 wounded.
The militants warned that further attacks would follow.
A spokesman for the Sindh provincial government, Sharfuddin Memon, said the bomb had been detonated on the roadside as the bus, packed with navy officials, passed by.
"We have reports that 15 people have been injured," said Mr Memom.
Police officials at the scene say they suspect the bomb was planted in a motorbike found near the blast site.
A police officer told the BBC that the vehicle was targeted as it left a naval facility in the city, which is the headquarters for the country's navy.
Tariq Naveed said the nature of the bombing "appears similar to the attack on two navy buses two days ago. But we will know for sure once the scene of the attack has been fully examined."
Witnesses said the force of the blast was such that the explosion was heard at least one kilometre away and it caused considerable damage to other nearby vehicles and a petrol station.