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July 25, 2017

26 martyred in Lahore suicide attack

Top Story

July 25, 2017

LAHORE: At least 26 people, including nine policemen, were martyred in a deadly suicide blast on the Ferozepur Road near the Arfa Karim Tower on Monday afternoon. The suicide attack, in which 56 people were also injured, was carried out during the demolition of the old fruit and vegetable market. Three bikes and a car were damaged in the blast.

The injured were shifted to different hospitals where the condition of 20 of them was stated to be critical.Sub-Inspector Riaz, ASI Fayyaz and constables Moazzam, Abid, Murtaza, Ali Raza, Sajid, Umair Ghani and Muhammad Qasim were martyred. Two of them, Ali Raza and Ghulam Murtaza, were brothers. They had been recruited one year ago and were residents of House No25, Street No 1, Mohallah Jattan, Shadipura, Bund Road, Lahore.

An employee of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) Khurram Nazir was also among the martyrs.Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. The suicide bomber was aged between 16 to 18 years, according to an ISPR handout.

The incident occurred just a few meters away from 180-H Model Town – the chief minister’s camp office, exposing the so-called combing search operations and maintenance of law and order in the provincial metropolis.

Senior police officers did not learn any lesson from the Mall Road carnage as they failed to implement the SOPs. The policemen, instead of standing in small groups, had assembled at one place which helped the bomber to target them specifically.

Eyewitness and first responders told The News that a suicide bomber, apparently riding a bike, reached the spot where the police were standing guard to avert any retaliation from the owners of the buildings being demolished for a park.

The bomber – carrying a suicide jacket weighing at least 12 kilogrammes of explosives, including ball bearings – triggered the button at 3:55pm. The impact of the blast was so huge that it shook the Arfa Karim Tower like an earthquake as ball bearings shattered a number of windowpanes. The crime scene was littered with blood and human limbs were scattered around.

At least nine expired persons were shifted to the General Hospital, 13 to Jinnah Hospital, two to Services Hospital and one to Ittefaq Hospital. Out of the total injured persons, 29 were shifted to General Hospital, one to Services Hospital, nine to Jinnah Hospital and 17 to Ittefaq Hospital.

An injured policeman said a biker stopped at the check post and exploded himself. As a result, the parked car and bikes caught fire. An eyewitness said he was busy in demolition work when all of a sudden he heard a deafening sound, adding that he witnessed a big fireball and victims with fatal injuries screaming.

Another passer-by said as he reached near the Kot Lakhpat flyover on his way home, the blast shook his vehicle, adding, “The scene presented the look of doomsday.” He said the commuters and locals fled the place in chaos to save their lives. “Nobody knew what had happened.”

Initially, it was not confirmed whether it was a suicide blast or a planted device. But the confirmation of a suicide bombing was made after the recovery of the suicide attacker’s limbs.The personnel of Counter Terrorism Department and Pakistan Army also reached the scene and started investigation, while the Bomb Disposal Squad collected technical details of the explosives used in the suicide jacket. It was also claimed that the bike used in the blast belonged to Usman, a resident of Lahore.

Soon after the incident, the traffic coming from Kasur to Kalima Chowk was stopped and diverted to other routes, which resulted in a mess. The Metro Bus service was also suspended but restored after two hours.It also created panic among the visitors and staff of the Arfa Karim Tower, which was closed soon after the incident for every kind of entry and exit till the situation was cleared.

DIG Operations Haider Ashraf confirmed that it was a suicide attack and the police were the target. He said Lahore had always been on the hit-list of terrorists due to the ongoing development work, adding that the city was already on red alert due to extensive terror threats. To a question, he said police were deployed to protect the district government officials busy in removing encroachments.

Meanwhile, 10 Div GOC Maj Gen Muhammad Amir visited the blast site. He also inquired after the injured victims at the General Hospital along with Commissioner Abdullah Khan Sumbal and CCPO Amin Wains.

Police and other law enforcement agencies have launched a massive search operation and took a number of suspects into custody. Police were also trying to get CCTV footage of nearby cameras of Punjab Safe City Authority to identity the bomber and his facilitators. A case FIR No16/17 has been registered against three terrorists, including the suicide bomber, on the complaint of SHO CTD Abid Baig.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the terror attack and expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives. He directed for extending the best possible medical treatment to the injured.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sought a report from the acting IGP and ordered a probe into the incident. He promised an exemplary punishment to the savage beasts and said the great sacrifice of brave policemen and other citizens would not go in vain.

It is worth mentioning that the demolition of the old vegetable market was underway for the last couple of days and a number of owners had resisted the move. Special police reserves were deployed to cope with the untoward incident.Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb has strongly condemned the blast in which innocent lives were lost.PTI chief Imran Khan and TNFJ patron Agha Hamid Moosavi also severely assailed those behind the blast.