Suicide blast hits Wagah
LAHORE: At least 60 people, including three Rangers officials, children and women, were killed in a suicide blast at Wagah Border parking area right after the traditional flag-lowering ceremony, while more than 150 citizen, including five Rangers officials, received injuries on Sunday.
The death toll was likely to rise as several severely injured people were under treatment in different government and private hospitals across the city. The deceased Rangers officials were identified as Inspector Rizwan, Hawaldar Shahbir and Lance Naik Sultan. The blast damaged shops, motorcycles, vehicles and the customs building. The Gurki Hospital where a large number of injured and dead were taken was struggling to cope. After the incident, the Rangers and police cordoned off the area and started a search operation.
The suicide bombing took place in a car park on the Pakistani side at least 500 meters from the border with India. No Indian troops were hurt in the attack. “I was sitting in my office near the border when I heard the blast. I rushed to the scene and saw scattered bodies, injured men, women and children and smashed cars,” an intelligence source told Reuters. Law enforcers did not allow media to visit the crime scene as they collected evidence and wanted to prevent its destruction. City police has further beefed up the security in the provincial capital after this incident. Police had been patrolling all important and sensitive areas, majalis and other places on a daily basis for the last few days to maintain law and order during Muharram. The incident occurred at around 5:45pm when people were busy shopping and eating after the flag-lowering ceremony. A suicide bomber blew himself, killing more than 60 people and injuring over 150.
Families of the deceased and injured began gathering at the hospital where the bodies were kept in the open foyer due to unavailability of space. The blast was very loud and spread panic among the locals. After being informed a number of people gathered at the blast site and the hospital to help or donate blood for the injured persons. The explosion had initially been attributed to a cylinder blast and later it was reported as of a remote-controlled or planted device. However, Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhera confirmed that it was a suicide attack.
He said that the suicide attacker approached the gate as the crowd was vacating the parade area where the flag-lowering ceremony is held. Sukhera said that the suicide bomber who was aged between 18 to 20 years blew himself up when hundreds of people, including women and children, were dispersing after witnessing the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah border. Rescue 1122 and other rescuers rushed to the scene and started a rescue operation. The dead bodies and injured were shifted to Ghurki Trust Hospital as it is very near to the incident place.
In view of the shortage of ambulances, people shifted the dead and injured on self-help basis. Because of inadequate facilities at the Ghurki Trust Hospital, several of the injured were transferred to Shalamar Hospital, Farooq Hospital and other government hospitals of the city. Emergency was imposed at all the hospitals of the city. Hospital sources said that the condition of several injured people was serious and it was feared that the death toll could rise. Meanwhile, the banned organisation Jundullah has claimed the responsibility for the attack. The CCPO said that ball bearings and explosive material was found from the blast scene. He said it was a high intensity explosion and was heard in adjoining localities and created panic at the scene.
Police and Bomb Disposal Squad said that over five to six kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast. A huge amount of ball bearings was found at the scene of the blast. DG Rangers Khan Tahir Javed Khan confirmed the death of three Rangers officials and injury to five personnel in the attack. He said that due to tight security the suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance. Khan said it was a great loss but due to tight security arrangements officials gave their lives to save those of the public. He also confirmed that it was a suicide blast because the law enforcers had recovered two legs and some other parts of the body.
Javed Khan also requested the media not to try to reach the crime scene where the investigators were collecting the evidence. DG Health Dr Zahid Pervaiz said that after the blast the health department issued strict instructions to all government hospitals to announce an emergency and also made all the necessary arrangements to treat the injured persons. He said that the Guhrki Hospital management did its best within their means. Ghurki Trust Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Javed said that the deceased included 10 women, seven children and three Rangers personnel. He added that eight members of one family and five belonging to another family were among the victims.
According to the eye-witnesses, the explosion occurred exactly after the parade at Wagah Border ended. Sources said that intelligence agencies had informed the Punjab government about the possibility of a terror attack during Ashura. They said that the the suspected suicide bomber was named Abdul Rehman who had been “underground” for the last few months and it was feared that he could target a procession or important personality during Muharram. After intelligence reports police tried to trace the suspected terrorist but failed. Customs employee Shahid Aslam, an eyewitness, said that the explosion occurred shortly after people walked out of the parade ground. Everyday before sunset soldiers from Pakistan and India gather at the Wagah border crossing, drawing big crowds on both sides, to simultaneously lower the two nations’ flags.