Lahore: At least thirteen people including three policemen were killed while 77 others injured in a suicide attack at a police check-point along the main route of chehlum procession of Hazrat Imam Hussain (R.A) at Lohari Gate area Tuesday evening. Medical Superintendent Mayo Hospital Dr Zahid Pervaiz told media that 10 dead and 70 injured were brought to the hospital. He said that 25 of the 70 injured received grievous wounds and 15 of them were in a precarious condition.The MS said that the dead included a woman, a baby boy and Zahid Shah from Peshawar who had come to Lahore to visit Data Gunj Bukhsh’s shrine. Sources told that a teen-aged suicide bomber blew himself.
Lahore CCPO Aslam Tarin told Reuters a 13-year-old boy detonated explosives as policemen tried to check him at a cordon near the procession. The CCPO said that stringent security measures were adopted to provide security to the devotees visiting Data Darbar as well as the participants of the chehlum procession. “The loss of life would have been far greater, had the suicide bomber managed to enter the main procession”, the CCPO asserted.
Paying tribute to the martyred policemen, he said that the courage and valour of the police men averted huge catastrophe. SP (Security) Rana Faisal told media that the suicide bomber, carrying a bag in his hand, detonated the explosive device on being asked to open the bag for search.
Shi’ites stage large rallies on the streets to mark Chehlum or Arba’in, the end of their 40-day religious mourning period for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H), who was killed during a battle in A.D. 680 in Karbala, a city in modern-day Iraq. During the rallies, mourners flagellate themselves with steel-tipped flails or slash their bodies with knives in memory of Hussein.
Television footage showed policemen and ambulance workers carrying the wounded away with their hands and on stretchers, while other officers tried to calm the shocked and confused crowd.
Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban deem Shi’ites as heretics. Militants have unleashed a wave of suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan in retaliation for army offensives against their sanctuaries in the lawless border regions with Afghanistan. The attacks on religious minorities are part of their wider campaign to destabilize Pakistan. Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban have attacked such religious gatherings in the past as part of a campaign to create chaos and topple Pakistani government. Pakistan tacitly cooperates with the US drone bombing campaign, which Washington does not openly acknowledge, but which US officials say has severely weakened Al-Qaeda’s leadership.
“We claim responsibility for the suicide attack on police in Lahore,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for militant umbrella group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in a telephone call to AFP in Miranshah, the main town in restive North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan. “We regret the loss of civilian lives in the attack and warn people to keep away from security forces and government property,” he said. “The attack was in retaliation for drone strikes and military operations in tribal areas. We have more than 3,000 trained suicide bombers,” he added.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “strongly condemned” the Lahore attack and ordered an immediate inquiry to investigate the attack, a statement said. Security has been beefed up on all entrance and exit points of the city in the aftermath of the suicide attack.