Sonic boom triggers panic in Islamabad, Pindi

July 1st, 2008 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, July 1 (IANS) A sonic boom caused by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet breaking the sound barrier shook this federal capital and the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi Monday, triggering fears of a terrorist attack. “The effect of the ‘blast’ was felt all over the country and also shook the stock market for some time because of the volatile security situation in the country and confusion caused by a delay in explanation by the authorities about the cause,” Dawn said Tuesday.

The sonic boom, at about 11 a.m., rattled windows and alarmed people and security agencies which have witnessed a spate of suicide attacks by militants in recent days.

Emergency services were placed on alert and police combed the area.

News channels flashed news of “explosions” adding to the panic.

The PAF at first denied that one of its jets could have caused the sonic boom, but hours later its public relations directorate said an F-7P fighter had broken the sound barrier over Pindigheb, 55 miles southwest of the capital.

“An F-7P fighter aircraft, while on a scheduled functional control flight mission, crossed the sound barrier in Pindigheb area,” a PAF statement said.

The aircraft was flying a “maintenance check mission” after an overhaul at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, north of the capital, and the sonic boom occurred as it was reducing its altitude from 40,000 feet to 15,000 feet.

Fighter pilots are prohibited from breaking the sound barrier over populated areas, but the PAF spokesperson claimed the pilot had crossed the barrier while flying over a barren area.

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