KARACHI / LAHORE: Terrorists targeted mourning processions marking the Chehlum of the martyrs of Karbala in Lahore and Karachi within two hours on Tuesday, killing at least 17 people and wounding scores more, officials said.
In Lahore, a teenage suicide bomber attacked the first cordon of police which was set up to monitor the queue towards Karbala Gamay Shah where the Chehlum procession was to culminate.
Thirteen people, among them three policemen, were killed and at least 80 wounded over 15 of them critically.
Two police vehicles and a car were also damaged in the attack. An emergency was declared in government hospitals throughout the city.
Constable Nadeem Akhtar, driver of DSP Imran Karamat’s damaged vehicle, told The Express Tribune that the attacker was aged 14 to 15 years and was carrying a briefcase.
He was stopped by security personnel for jumping the queue when he blew himself up, Akhtar said. The DSP, he said, was safe as he had left the spot a few minutes earlier.
Lahore Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Rao Sardar Ali said that the severed head and torso of the suicide bomber were recovered from the site and sent to the Mayo Hospital for identification. Ali said the attacker was carrying a bag laden with explosives.
According to Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) official Allahyar, high-intensity explosives, weighing at least four kilograms, were used in the attack.
Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said policemen had warded off greater losses by stopping the attacker at the outer check-post.
Following the blast, security was tightened around the procession and at the Data Darbar shrine where thousands of devotees were participating in the annual Urs celebrations.
Senior adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa condemned the blast and visited the Mayo Hospital to meet the injured. Chairperson of the Sunni Ittehad Council Sahibzada Fazal Karim announced a countrywide protest on January 28.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in his condolence message, said the entire nation is proud of the police officials who laid down their lives in the line of duty.
Hours after, an alleged suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a police van, killing four and injuring 15 others.
According to officials, the attacker was targeting buses carrying the mourners but the buses had already passed by the route.
As the city panicked, security was put on high alert and an emergency was declared in
all hospitals. Massive traffic jams were reported in various parts of the city, including on Shahrah-e-Faisal.
Investigators recovered a severed head from the crime scene which they believed was of the alleged suicide bomber.
However, as families of the deceased arrived at the scene, they identified the head as that of police constable Kamran. SI Raja Nawaz also confirmed that the head is the police constable’s.
The motorcycle used in the attack was completely damaged.
A contingent of rangers, police and the BDS also reached the site but a report is yet to be submitted. Neither the po lice nor the BDS were willing to disclose anything about the intensity, weight and type of explosives used. “I am not in a position to state anything,” BDS Sub-Inspector Nasab, who inspected the site, told The Express Tribune. “We are trying to ascertain the intensity, weight and type of explosive. We are also searching the area for body parts of the bomber.” On the other hand, East Zone Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Commandant Shaukat Ali Shah said that nothing could be said until investigations were complete but said the attack was a suicide bombing.
Shah, however, insists that the head found belongs to the suicide bomber. “The bomber was carrying an explosive-laden bag. He wanted to hit the buses carrying mourners returning from the procession to Malir, Jafar Tayyar Society and Khaimae-Abbas. Fortunately, police intercepted him upon which he rammed his motorcycle into the police mobile,“ Shah said.
The deceased policemen have been identified as ASI Mushtaq, Head Constable Kamran and constable Imran, while the passerby was named Kashif. The policemen were called from the Razzakabad Training Centre for security duty.
Crime Investigation Depart ment (CID) SP Investigations Mazhar Mashwani said that pallets were used in explosives.
However, a senior officer said on condition of anonymity: “We had serious threats during Chehlum and therefore we deployed a heavier security contingent in every part of the city,” he said. “I think Lashkar-e-Jhangvi might be behind the incident but nothing can be said with certainty.” Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has announced Rs2 million each for deceased policemen while Rs0.2 million for injured policemen.
Sindh Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sultan Sallahuddin Babar Khattak also visited the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center and announced promotions for the dead policemen. He also announced Rs0.1 million other than compensation for families.
JPMC Emergency Incharge Dr Seemin Jamali confirmed the death toll and said the victims sustained pellets on their bodies and some of them had head injuries and fractures.
One mourner Ali Mehdi who was on one of the buses of mourners told The Express Tribune that the suicide bomber wanted to hit their bus with his motorcycle but he hit the motorcycle with the police van when he was intercepted.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2011.