October 10, 2008

Pakistan: Reports of Ambulances Laden With Explosives Create Scare in Rawalpindi

Text of report by Mohammad Asghar headlined "Bomb scare grips city: Ambulances with explosives" published by Pakistani newspaper Dawn website on 9 October

Rawalpindi, 8 October [Wednesday]: Fear gripped the city on Wednesday when people saw hospitals barring their gates and television channels reported that three ambulances laden with explosives were on the prowl.

More panic was caused when the people confused about the real situation heard the news that police searched a school in the cantonment area after receiving a call that a bomb had been planted there.

Police sources said that the call, made to Rescue 1122 in Islamabad, turned out to be a hoax but police were still on the look out of the suspect ambulances that intelligence agents said had entered the city.

Police put all government-run hospitals in the city on alert after receiving the intelligence. Hospitals were instructed to bar entry to all vehicles.

Confusion spread as vehicles and ambulances bringing patients piled up outside the hospital. Some ambulances dropped their patients at the hospital gates which confounded and panicked the people, eyewitnesses said.

Dr Khalid Iqbal, medical superintendent of the District Headquarters Hospital, confirmed that intelligence about the explosives-laden ambulances was passed on to him and he ordered the gates of the hospital closed. Doctors' cars and hospital's ambulances were allowed in only after strict checking.

He said closed circuit television cameras and metal detectors were being installed to secure the hospital.

Police inspector Karim Niazi told Dawn that the hoax call that made his force to rush to the school in cantonment area had been traced and the police was hunting for the caller.

A bomb disposal expert said his search team went to the school without protective jackets to avoid alarming the children.

"Had they been told or suspected why we were there, they would have panicked," he said.

Fortunately, bomb threat turned out to be false. The bomb disposal experts, who put their life at risk by not wearing their jackets, searched both the boys' and girls' sections of the school for an hour. They found no explosives and declared the school buildings safe.

Originally published by Dawn website, Karachi, in English 09 Oct 08.

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