As the death toll from the suicide attack on the Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan hit 50, police claim to have identified the masterminds behind the bombing.
Malik Tassaduq Awan, head of the Dera Ghazi Khan police, said that law enforcement agencies have indentified all of the terrorists involved in the attack, including the bombers’ accomplices, handlers and facilitators. He claimed that they will soon be arrested.
Meanwhile, investigators have begun to piece together the plot that led to the bombing and may have important leads on the masterminds behind the atrocity.
According to investigators, the planning for the attack on the shrine was done in the Bajaur tribal district. At least five people, including the suicide bombers, are suspected of having been involved.
The two attackers, 16-year-old Ismail and 18-year-old Umar, were both from North Waziristan. They received their explosive vests from handlers based in Dera Ismail Khan. They arrived in Dera Ghazi Khan on March 29, staying at the Madina Hotel. Their hotel room was booked under the name of Zara Ali, son of Shah Wali.
Ismail detonated his vest at the gate of the shrine, where many devotees of the 13th century Sufi saint were dancing. This explosion caused most of the damage in Sunday’s attack.
Umar followed about 20 minutes later, but his vest failed to go off properly and he was injured in the smaller blast that followed. He is described as being in critical condition. Investigators have moved him to Multan for treatment and interrogation.
When questioned, Umar told investigators his name was “Fidai,” a term that means one who is willing to sacrifice their life for a cause. It is a term militants often use to describe suicide bombers.
Umar told investigators that he had been told that he would get into paradise if he conducted the attack. When asked how he could get into paradise by attacking fellow Muslims, he said “I don’t know about that but Paradise must be better than this world.”
After the bombing, the police in the area have enhanced security measures around the shrine, said Awan. Four employees of the hotel where the bombers stayed before the attack have been detained for questioning.
In the meantime, law enforcement agencies also claimed to have detained three suspected terrorists from the Chakri Interchange and moved them to an undisclosed place for interrogation.
The suspects are identified as Ustad Fasihullah, Abdullah and Matih Jan. Authorities suspect that they were going to Lahore to conduct an attack in that city over the next few days. (With additional reporting by Tariq Ismail in Dera Ghazi Khan)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2011.