KARACHI, Pakistan — A massive vehicle bomb blew up a compound of Karachi's counterterrorism police Thursday, the biggest attack in Pakistan's most populous city in the current campaign of al-Qaida-inspired violence. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded, officials and witnesses said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and said it was retaliating for U.S. missile strikes, which target suspected militants in the country's tribal area.
The southern port city, Pakistan's commercial hub, had up to now escaped the full force of the three-year-long terrorist assault on the country. The attack, in a high security zone, was a clear demonstration of the deadly capability and intent of the extremists, following a relatively peaceful recent period in the country.
The assault began when six or more gunmen opened fire on the guards on duty at the office of the Crime Investigation Department, which houses police counterterrorism operations. Local residents said hand grenades were also thrown and that the shooting lasted about 20 minutes. That allowed the attackers to drive in with the bomb, thought to be contained in a small truck, at around 9:30 p.m.
The blast was felt for miles across Karachi. At least five police officers were among the dead.
"There was gunfire, we all scattered. God saved me, I don't know what happened next," said one police officer, who gave his name only as Abdullah and was working in a building that was partially damaged.
News reports said that more than half a ton of explosives were used in the blast.
The compound was also used to keep terrorist suspects in detention. Earlier this week, the department arrested six members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a highly trained Pakistani extremist group that's been linked to many of the high profile attacks in recent years, even though the Pakistani Taliban routinely claims responsibility. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi detainees were presented before a court in Karachi earlier Thursday.
The explosion destroyed the front part of the complex, with people buried under the rubble. Some had to be dug out by hand. The injured and dead were hurried away on stretchers to a line of waiting ambulances.