At least 42 people were killed and another 175 injured in a series of suicide bomb attacks that rocked the Data Darbar complex late on Thursday, officials and hospital workers said. The first blast occurred in the courtyard of the Darbar shrine at 11:00pm.
The blasts tore through the shrine complex when scores of people were offering prayers in the Data Darbar, which sits in one of the city’s most crowded neighbourhoods. On Thursdays, devotees usually spend the whole night at the Darbar in anticipation of blessing. Some 3,000 people were present in the Darbar complex at the time of the attacks.
Sajjad Bhutta, the district coordination officer in Lahore, told reporters that all the three explosions were caused by suicide attackers.
While security officials confirmed that the first blast was caused by a suicide attacker, they refused to speculate about the other explosions.
Scenes of panic were witnessed soon after the explosions as people scrambled to reach the different exit points of the complex. Several lives were lost in the stampedes that followed the blasts, officials and eyewitnesses said.
One official said that the stampedes may have caused more deaths than the actual blasts. “It is too early to say anything about the nature of the second and third blasts,” a police official was quoted as telling reporters. Initial reports suggested that the explosions were set off by “crackers” and were “probably of low intensity”.
The city’s hospitals were pushed to the limit as a number of injured people were rushed to Mayo Hospital, Ganga Ram Hospital and the Services Hospital. Most of the injured were in a critical condition.
Hospital officials have appealed for blood donations for the victims of the blasts.
Policemen combed the site of the blast and reported having found a grenade shell. This led to speculation that one of the blasts was probably caused by a grenade.
Police superintendent Raja Ayaz Saleem said the first and third blasts occurred in the courtyard of the shrine complex while the second explosion went off in the basement of the building. According to Saleem, the body parts of a suicide attacker were found almost 70 feet away from the site.
In addition to the body parts, security officials have also found a suicide jacket. Commissioner Khusro Pervez confirmed that 15-kilogram explosives were found in the two suicide vests used in the attacks. Ball-bearings were also used by the attackers, he said.
“Terrorists managed to enter the area because of the massive rush,” the administrator of the shrine said in response to queries about security arrangements at the shrine.
“Two days before the attack , we held discussions with the police about security arrangements at the shrine complex,” he told reporters. According to reports, security personnel had carried out an operation near the complex while following up on leads that terrorists were plotting an attack.
Officials said that the heads of two suspected suicide bombers had been recovered. Following the blasts, people gathered outside the shrine and protested against the government for not providing security. Police resorted to aerial firing.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2010
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