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Pakistan Army Officer, Dozen Others Killed In Suspicious Train Accident


At least 14 people including a senior army officer were killed July 2 when a train carrying more than 200 fell into a canal in Pakistan after the partial collapse of a bridge.

The incident, which a government minister said might have involved sabotage, occurred near the eastern town of Wazirabad in the country's most populous province, Punjab. The train was headed to the garrison town of Kharian.

The military said four carriages derailed as the train, which was carrying army troops and military hardware, crossed Chanawan Bridge.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwa said that 14 bodies had been recovered, including the train driver, and the search for missing people was continuing.

Bajwa said "Lieutenant Colonel Amir," the commander of a unit, died in the accident.

Geo TV reported that an army officer's wife and two children were also killed.

More than 80 people were saved by the rescuers, Bajwa said.

The rescue mission involved rubber dinghies, helicopters, and divers, live TV footage showed. Soldiers were seen breaking the windows of the train with hammers and pulling out passengers trapped inside.

Speaking to reporters, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said the incident may not have been accidental.

"There appears to be some other hand or reason. Apparently it could be due to a blast or deliberate loosening of the fishplates," he said, adding a heavier train carrying hundreds of people had crossed the same bridge an hour earlier without a problem.

"This bridge was inspected in December and January and it had no issues," he said.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where tracks and bridges are often poorly maintained.

Pakistan inherited thousands of miles of track and trains from the former colonial power, Britain. But the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and under-investment.

Small separatist groups in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan also have been known to bomb railway tracks.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered an investigation.

Sharif expressed "deep grief and sorrow" over the accident and conveyed his condolences to families of "martyred" soldiers.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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