LAHORE: At least three people were martyred, while 20 others, including a cop, were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast near the residence of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed here in Johar Town on Wednesday.
Inspector General Police (IGP) Inam Ghani said the explosive device was planted in a vehicle to target a police post. No banned organisation claimed responsibility for the attack till filing of this report.
However, the IGP while talking to the media said foreign hand was involved in the blast to sabotage peace in the provincial capital. Three houses and three cars were completely damaged due to the high intensity of the blast, while the window panes of dozens houses were also shattered besides damage to many cars and motorcycles in the locality covering a radius of over 400 meters. The incident occurred at a time when the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) virtual meeting is continuing in Paris to consider whether Pakistan should be kept in grey list or it should be taken out. Hafiz Saeed was also arrested last year reportedly under the pressure of FATF to keep Pakistan out of the grey list.
It is worth mentioning here that the chief of JuD was under house arrest for over a year after an anti-terrorism court sentenced him to 11 years in jail for financing terrorist operations. He lives in E-Block of Board of Revenue Society adjacent to the seminary. All streets leading to his house have been put under tight security by placing blocks of concrete. Private guards along with police personnel provide security to the JuD chief.
However, Inam Ghani asserted that the target was law enforcement agencies. “We received at least 65 threat alerts this year. The last alert was also about the attack on LEAs,” he added. On Wednesday, at around 11:07am, a huge blast occurred which shook the locality and clouds of dust billowed into the sky. Rescue 1122 and police reached the scene immediately and started the rescue operation.
Critically injured people were shifted to Jinnah Hospital, while first aid was provided to the people with minor injuries. The buildings of three houses were completely damaged while three cars parked in the street near the blast site were also destroyed. The blast created a three feet deep and five feet wide crater at the site. The blast also caused fire in the gas pipeline passing in the street underground. The main Maulana Shaukat Ali Road is a commercial hub for the sale and purchase of cars.
A big part of the vehicle, apparently used in the blast, flew over 400 meters at a projectile angle and hit a shop on main BoR Society Road. Forensic experts collected the part of the vehicle for further examination.
Soon after the blast, the personnel of law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area. Initially, police officers termed it an incident of gas blast. However, circumstantial evidences suggested that over 20kg explosive material was used in the blast and it was detonated through an IED.
Inam Ghani, Additional IG CTD Waseem Sial, CCPO Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, DIG Sajid Kiani and a huge contingent of police reached the spot and examined the blast site. Forensic experts collected evidences and recorded statements of the eyewitnesses.
An eyewitness told The News that the blast was so huge that the sound wave pushed him at least three feet away. The residents of the housing society said it seemed the Doomsday had come. Panic gripped the area after the blast. A woman claimed she had spotted suspicious movement of bike in the area but policemen patrolling there did not notice.
The incident has raised eyebrows over the performance of Lahore Police and other law enforcement agencies as the area was under strict physical and digital surveillance of Safe City Authority. The CCTV cameras of Safe City and others installed at homes and showrooms could also help tracing out the movement of terrorists in the locality.
Police investigators said they have started geo-fencing the area to trace the facilitators of terrorists. Meanwhile, IG Punjab, talking to the media at the blast site, said terrorists cannot demoralise them with cowardly acts. He said Punjab Police will soon bring the accused to justice. He said the CTD is scrutinising all aspects of the incident. He said the vehicle could not move much due to the police check post near the blast and the terrorists failed to inflict huge damage due to the presence of the police team.
He further said that citizens as well as police personnel have been injured in the incident, but the determination and morale of Punjab Police is high.
After the incident, the IG Punjab also visited Jinnah Hospital and inquired about the injured civilians and police personnel.
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