South Asia

'At least 20 dead' in car bomb in Faisalabad, Pakistan

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWatch: The BBC's Orla Guerin said rescue workers are looking for survivors at the scene

At least 20 people have been killed and more than 120 injured after a car bomb tore through a gas station in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad.

The bomb caused several gas cylinders at the station to explode, destroying cars and buildings.

Police said that the number of dead could rise as many of the injured were in a critical condition.

Militants regularly bomb targets across Pakistan, but this is the first bombing in Faisalabad in recent years.

The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the attack, saying it was to avenge the death in custody of one of their members.

Compressed natural gas is a popular fuel in Pakistan and there were thought to be many vehicles at the gas station when the car bomb exploded.

"It was not a suicide attack," Faisalabad city commissioner Tahir Husain said. "The bomb exploded near the gas cylinders that triggered a bigger blast."

'Like an earthquake'

It is not clear whether the station was the intended target.

Correspondents say there are a number of sensitive locations in the area such as government offices, a police station and the offices of Pakistan's ISI spy agency.

The blast was so large that, according to witnesses, it reduced the station to a heap of twisted metal and rubble.

A security guard at the nearby office of Pakistan International Airlines said: "The earth moved as in an earthquake, and there was thick smoke all around."

Another eyewitness, Hussain, described the panic to AFP news agency: "Everybody was running here and there to save his life. I saw injured people and dead bodies scattered here and there."

Heavy diggers and cranes have been brought in because there are believed to be survivors still trapped in the debris.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed his sorrow over the deaths.

Punjab militancy

Faisalabad is a key hub for Pakistan's textile industry and has seen sectarian and religious shootings in the past.

But it has not been targeted by militants who have carried out bomb attacks across Pakistan in recent years.

The city is in Pakistan's Punjab province where pro-Taliban militant groups have been increasing in strength.

There has been no claim of responsibility so far, but officials have indicated they believe the Taliban are responsible.

The Pakistani Taliban have launched attacks on security establishments with devastating effect on a number of occasions in the past few years.

Pakistan's military regularly launch offensives against militant strongholds in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan in the north-west of the country.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites