LAHORE: Nine people, including five policemen, were martyred and 35 others injured when a suicide bomber exploded himself near a check post outside the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Raiwind on Wednesday night.
The bombing was claimed by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a statement sent to AFP, in which it threatened more attacks on police in retaliation for killing their “associates” in Punjab.
SI Aslam and constables Tanveer, Saeed, Amir Afridi were among the martyrs. Raiwind ASP Zubair Nazir, Sundar SHO Asim and seven other policemen sustained injuries. Both of them were stated to be out of danger at the Jinnah Hospital.
Eyewitnesses, investigators and circumstantial evidence suggest that the suicide bomber had targeted the police at the time of change in shift at around 9pm. According to the eyewitnesses, the blast was so powerful that it was heard at a long distance. At least 70,000 followers of Tablighi Jamaat were present at the annual congregation, who remained safe due to the sacrifices of policemen.
Right after the blast, the nearby people rushed to the site to help the victims. A rescue official said the first caller told them that it was a cylinder blast. Rescue teams, Edhi Ambulances and the locals shifted the injured to the Raiwind Tehsil Headquarters Hospital (THQ), Sharif Medical Complex and Indus Hospital.
Four of the deceased were pronounced as having brought dead. Five others succumbed to injuries in the hospital. Two of the deceased policemen were sub-inspectors and three were constables. The injured were later shifted to the Jinnah Hospital and General Hospital. Some of them are stated to be in critical condition, triggering fears that the death toll might go up.
DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf confirmed that it was a suicide attack and the police were the main target. As far as the modus operandi was concerned, the terrorists attacked the police force like they did in the attacks carried out on The Mall Road and Ferozepur Road.
The CTD, Punjab Forensic Science Agency and police reached the scene, preserved the site and collected forensic evidence. They also collected body parts of the suicide bomber. All hospitals of the city were put on high alert following the blast, as Rangers and police conducted combing operations in and around Raiwind.
The Punjab IGP reached the scene and declared a security high alert in the province. He also directed to intensify search, sweep, combing and intelligence operations as well as beefing up security at sensitive installations, educational institutes, places of worship and markets.
It was the first incident of such nature in Lahore this year. However, around 60 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks last year at a parking lot on the Band Road, Ferozepur Road, Bedian Road, and The Mall Road.
In his reaction, President Mamnoon Hussain said such cowardly acts could not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sought a report from the IGP and vowed to take the terrorists and their facilitators to task. “The martyrs are our heroes” whose sacrifices would not go waste, he added.
Similarly, Maryam Nawaz in a tweet prayed to Allah Almighty to protect the brave police force members. The bombing took place at a time when the police were finalising security arrangements for the PSL matches in Lahore.
Sources say the banned outfits working on Indian agenda have targeted the force just to spoil the upcoming sports activity in the provincial capital. Senior police officials believe that the terrorists want to target the force but they would fight against them with dedication and as religious obligation.