–Punjab CM orders inquiry, seeks report from IGP
–Hizbul Ahrar claims responsibility for the attack
LAHORE: At least 10 people, including five policemen, were killed and 25 others were injured in a bomb blast targetting a vehicle of the Elite Force outside Lahore’s Data Darbar on early Wednesday morning.
Martyred police officers include head constables Shahid Nazir, Muhammad Sohail, and Constable Muhammad Saleem.
The attack occurred near the entrance gate for women visitors to Data Darbar. It was a suicide attack which targetted the police vehicle parked outside the shrine, confirmed Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan.
Police officials believe the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The Punjab chief minister’s spokesperson, Shahbaz Gill, told reporters that the attacker was a 15-year-old boy. The teenager came out of a fruit shop, crossed over to the police van, and then detonated the bomb, Gill said.
The police said at least 7 kilogrammes of explosive was used in the blast.
The attack was later claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, a movement that has been fighting the government for years. In a statement, the group said the attack targeted police and had been timed to avoid civilian casualties.
A rescue operation was immediately started and the injured and bodies were transferred to nearby Mayo Hospital where an emergency was also imposed. The police also evacuated the devotees present inside the shrine at the time of the blast.
Earlier, King Edward Medical University (KEMU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Khalid Gondal said that the death toll has risen to nine, including one suspected attacker. He said at least seven bodies were shifted to Mayo Hospital while two were at the morgue at the KEMU.
He, however, feared that the toll could rise given the critical condition of few wounded.
The blast was so strong that it shattered the windows and glasses of nearby buildings and vehicles, spreading panic among the locals.
Akhlaq Bhatti, who lives in the locality, told Pakistan Today that he could hear the blast sitting at his milk shop in Bhatti. He said he rushed towards his children’s school located outside the shrine, fearing it was the target. However, when he reached near the shrine he found out that the attack was aimed at police.
Asifa Hameed, a mother, said that she was near Gamay Shah when she heard the blast.
“My heart stopped beating as I thought that it had hit the school and I rushed to get my children from there,” she said. “When I reach outside the school, I found out that the explosion occurred outside the Data Darbar,” she added.
“I am praying for the martyrs and their families as it is a terrible loss because I lost my brother in the Data Darbar blast in 2010 and [I] can feel their pain”.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Lahore Ashfaq Ahmed Khan told media that the security situation will not be compromised. He further said that the police department had raw intelligence regarding potential security threat however the exact location was unknown.
“All departments including the counter-terrorism department (CTD) are working together. We won’t leave any stone unturned to ensure the security of the citizens,” he said while adding that the forensic staff had begun collecting evidence from the blast site.
BUZDAR ORDERS INQUIRY:
Following the explosion, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar cancelled his scheduled visits to Bhakkar, Sargodha and Sheikhupura and sought a report from Punjab IG and chief secretary (home), said Chief Spokesperson to Punjab CM, Dr Shahbaz Gill, in a tweet. Gill further reiterated the commitment to take all possible measures to ensure peace and stability.
‘COWARD ACT OF TERRORISM’ DENOUNCED’:
President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan have expressed grief over the tragic loss of precious lives.
The premier has commiserated with the bereaved families and directed “Punjab govt to provide all assistance to the injured & families of victims”.
While the President has said that those involved in such despicable incident in the holy month of Ramadan are misguided elements.
In her tweet, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, said that playing with human lives is an act of cowardice. She asserted that “terrorists attack innocent people to demoralise a nation but we will eliminate them.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government over its failure in implementing the National Action Plan (NAP).
The PML-N president observed that the beast of terrorism was under control in the tenure of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif. He further said that the present security situation is alarming and the government needs to reevaluate its counter-terrorism strategy.
“Those who carry out terrorist attacks on Sufi shrines are certainly not Muslims,” he said while adding that such “anti-Pakistan” elements should not be tolerated.