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March 28, 2016

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69 killed as suicide blast rocks Lahore

340 injured as bomber targets a park; women, children main target; Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims responsibility; security steps were not taken despite threat alerts; Shahbaz donates blood at hospital, vows to eliminate terrorism

LAHORE: At least 69 people, including women and children, were killed and over 340 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on Sunday evening.

Police recovered a leg and the head of the suicide bomber, who was around 23 to 25 years old, from the crime scene. A CNIC was also found which is believed to be of the bomber. The name of the suspected terrorist is Yousaf – son of Ghulam Farid and resident of Muzaffargarh. However, the police have not confirmed that he is the suicide bomber yet.

The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. Soon after the deadly blast, an emergency was declared in all the hospitals of the city and security was put on high alert. According to Rescue 1122 officials, 39 dead bodies and 125 injured were shifted to Jinnah Hospital, five bodies and 48 injured to Shaikh Zayed Hospital, six bodies and 41 injured to Services Hospital, six bodies and 33 injured to Farooq Hospital, nine bodies and 12 injured to Mayo Hospital, 31 injured to Lahore General Hospital, 19 injured to Ganga Ram Hospital and eight injured to Bajwa Hospital.

There was a great rush in the park because of the weekly holiday coinciding with Easter. An eyewitness said a stampede broke out after the explosion in which many children were separated from their parents.

The children were playing on swings and enjoying other recreational facilities available in the park along with their parents when they were hit at 6:35 pm, eyewitnesses said. The Rescue 1122, Edhi Foundation and other emergency services rushed to the spot and started shifting the injured and bodies to different hospitals.

The top district officials and a heavy contingent of the police reached at the spot. The City Traffic Police tried to maintain traffic flow and set diversions on the roads leading to the blast site.

Shortly after the blast, the area was cordoned off by the law enforcement agencies. A team of the Pakistan Army along with ambulances also reached the crime scene for the rescue operation. The Lahore GOC also visited the scene along with senior officers.

Bomb disposal experts collected remains of the bomber and other material from the scene to ascertain the explosives used in the attack. According to experts, the substance used in the bombing smelled like high explosive which contained ball bearings as well.

Officials of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency also collected evidence from the scene. An official of bomb disposal squad said the bomber was carrying 10kg of explosives in his belt and hanging another eight kilograms on his back.

The suicide bomber had managed to enter the park unnoticed and blew himself up near Gate No 1. The sound of the explosion was heard several kilometres away from the park located in Allama Iqbal Town, creating fear among the already terror-stricken people of Lahore. The blast was so huge that the limbs and blood of the victims were strewn in the entire play area.

“When I reached the site of the attack, I saw human limbs scattered all over the place and two critically wounded persons. They were lying there, perhaps breathing their last,” a rescuer said.

“As I heard the huge bang, I rushed to the site and saw bodies and human flesh scattered all over,” a witness said, adding that the blast was so powerful that it tore apart the wooden items there.

The air was filled with the stench of blood. There were scenes of chaos in the hospitals as the relatives struggled to locate their loved-ones and security officials pushed them back.

Doctors said the death toll might rise as many of the injured persons were in a critical condition. The DIG Operations said the police were trying to ascertain how the suicide attacker had managed to enter the park.

The suicide jacket which the bomber detonated contained bolts and nuts. Officials said ascertaining the explosives would help the investigators find out whether any militant outfit was behind the attack or not.

The intelligence agencies had been approached to match the device with the profiles of different militant outfits and the process would take some time, they added.

A spokesperson of the Punjab government said the army was not called out by the government. He added that the home secretary had also confirmed that army was not called out by the government. However, he said it was a general practice that the Pakistan Army personnel visited terror-related crime scenes and participated in rescue operations.

Officers of an intelligence agency claimed that they had been sending threat alerts specifically related to the Iqbal Town area to the police. However, the police did not pay any attention as there was no security at the entry points to the park.

It is worth mentioning that a senior member of the Indian government had warned Pakistan following the Pathankot airbase attack that India would make Pakistan feel the same pain. Intelligence agencies have started investigating the role of RAW in the deadly attack.

The Counter Terrorism Department has registered a case against unidentified terrorists under various sections of the PPC and Anti-terrorism Act. The Punjab government announced a three-day mourning from today (Monday). the national flag on official buildings will be hoisted at half-mast on this occasion.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif inquired after the injured at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital. Shahbaz donated blood and expressed the resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country, saying he was ready to sacrifice his life for the nation. 

Peshawar Bureau adds: Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, using an Afghan cell number, called The News from an undisclosed location to claim responsibility for the attack.

“We proudly take responsibility for the suicide attack in a park in Lahore. The members of the Christian community who were celebrating Easter today were our prime target,” he said.

When asked if women and children were their target as most of those killed in the blast were women and children, the Taliban spokesman said they were not on their hit list.

“We didn’t want to kill women and children. Our target was the male members of the Christian community,” he maintained.

Besides, he said, they wanted to send a message to the PML-N government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that they (the militants) had arrived in Lahore and he should use whatever precautionary measures his government could undertake.

Ehsan said it was the first of series of attacks they had planned to conduct in the current year in different parts of the country.

The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, led by Omar Khalid Khorasani was initially based in Mohmand Agency in Fata. It shifted to Afghanistan when the security forces launched an offensive against it in October 2008. It parted ways with the TTP, which is headed by the Afghanistan-based Mullah Fazlullah.

Its fighters usually stage attacks on security forces and government installations in Pakistan from their sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. The group has been particularly keen to attack targets in Mohmand tribal region, Charsadda and Peshawar.       

 

 

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