The death toll in the blast that took place at the Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan on Sunday evening reached 50 on Monday.
Police investigations have revealed that the attack was planned in Bajaur Agency. The police have arrested three terrorists in this connection.
The shrine which was cordoned off following the terror attack was reopened to the public amid tight security. However, shops in the region remain shut.
Bombers stayed in Al Madina hotel
The terrorists involved in the Dera Ghazi Khan attack stayed in Al Madina Hotel on March 29.
Initial police investigation revealed that the terrorists stayed in room number 21 of the hotel in city’s popluated area of Fareedi Bazar.
Police have seized check-in and check-out records of the hotel and also arrested four hotel workers on suspicion.
Updated from print edition (below)
Bombers target Sakhi Sarwar shrine
At least 44 people have been killed and 120 wounded in a double suicide bomb attack at a shrine in this central Punjab district on Sunday.
The bombers struck outside the shrine of the 13th century Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar.
Thousands of devotees had gathered for the annual urs celebrations at the shrine, sited some 40 kilometres away from Dera Ghazi Khan city, when the attacks took place.
“We have recovered 44 bodies so far,” said local police officer Zahid Hussain Shah, adding that more than 100 were wounded. “Both were suicide attackers, they came on foot and blew themselves up when police on duty stopped them.”
Many of those wounded in the attacks were in a serious condition, he said.
“It was around 5pm. Devotees were performing devotional dance at the main entrance to the shrine when a teenager detonated the explosives strapped to his body,” an eyewitness told the Daily Express. “Around 15 minutes later another suicide bomber struck at the staircase of the shrine,” he said. “Bodies were scattered all over and the injured people were crying for help,” added another witness.
Regional Police Officer (RPO) Ahmed Mubarak confirmed that two suicide bombers tried to enter the shrine but failed and blew themselves up.
Police officer Shah claimed that they have arrested a third suspected suicide bomber, identified as Fida Hussain, a 15- to 16-year-old Afghan refugee from the tribal belt.
According to eyewitnesses, after the bombings, devotees were running in panic. The bomber ran into an elderly woman devotee and a hand grenade dropped from his hand. The woman raised alarm and some policeman standing nearby opened fire on him.
Police said the bomber was injured and could not detonate his suicide vest. Later, police arrested him and defused his suicide jacket.
Police also recovered the severed head of one of the numbers and also found a school card nearby. The card identifies the bomber as Abdullah, son of Noorullah, resident of Mirali in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The injured were ferried to different hospitals in Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan where a state of emergency was declared.
Dera Ghazi Khan’s commissioner confirmed the casualties saying that the death toll could rise as some of the injured are in a critical condition.
A police official, requesting anonymity, said the shrine had received threats from unidentified militants.
Shrines of Sufi saints, who follow the mystical dimension of Islam, have increasingly been the target of bloody attacks by militants in the country.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but extremists, including the Taliban, are vehemently opposed to the Sufi strand of Islam and consider their shrines to be idolatrous.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts, saying that “such cowardly acts of terror clearly demonstrate that the culprits involved neither have any faith nor any belief in human values”.
“Such violent acts only seem to be conspiracy to divide the society and create fear,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.
He directed the law-enforcement agencies to investigate the incident and apprehend the terrorists.
With additional input from wires
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2011.