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Pak troop train falls into canal, sabotage suspected as 12 killed

world Updated: Jul 02, 2015 18:19 IST

The commander of a unit and at least 12 Pakistani soldiers were killed on Thursday when a special train carrying military troops and their families plunged into a canal in Punjab province when a bridge collapsed partially.

Four bogies of the train fell into the canal near Gujranwala after a section of the Head Chanawa bridge collapsed while the train was passing by the area. The train was en route from Punno Akal to Kharian Cantt in Gujrat city.

Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, Director General, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) tweeted about the mishap. "Initial investigation, railway bridge collapsed. Shaheed confirmed 12 including Comd of unit, Lt col Amir. 8 bodies found," he added.

According to a statement issued by the army, 80 passengers have been rescued so far, of which five were injured. The pre-partition bridge was reportedly in dilapidated condition.

However, Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has not ruled out a terror angle to the accident. "Possibility of sabotage can not be ruled out in the tragedy," he said. Rafique said the intelligence agencies have launched investigation into the incident.

Sources told PTI that some senior army officers and officials of other wings were also travelling on the train.

Army rescue teams, Corps Commander and divers reached the site of the accident, launching a massive rescue operation. "Almost 200 people were travelling on the train," said SSP Waqas Nazir. The canal has been closed to carryout the rescue operation, he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed concern over the incident and directed authorities to mobilise all resources to rescue the injured and restore the track. The premier directed medical aid to be given to the injured and assure safe return to their destinations.

"We suspect that this was an act of sabotage... The planks on the rail were tampered with," a senior military official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The collapse also raises concerns about the safety of infrastructure. Several TV channels reported that the bridge had been marked as "extremely dangerous".

In May, a Pakistan military helicopter carrying diplomats to inspect a tourist project crashed, killing seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines.