A bomb ripped through the waiting lounge of a luxury train at the Lahore railway station on Tuesday evening, killing two persons and injuring over 60, some of them critically.
The blast occurred on Platform No 2, right outside the waiting lounge of Business Express train at around 6:42pm just as the Peshawar-bound Awami Express chugged out.
“The explosive device was concealed in a bag which went off after somebody tried to open it,” Shehzad Aslam, the senior superintendent of railway police, told The Express Tribune. He added that the casualties were caused by ball bearings packed into the explosive device.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Aslam Tarin said that six to eight kilogrammes of explosives were used in the bomb. “It was an act of terrorism and we are investigating how the terrorist came inside the railway station,” he told The Express Tribune.
He said the bomb could have been transported from another city. He was referring to two trains that arrived at Platform No 2 from Karachi an hour before the blast.
Interestingly, all 17 closed-circuit television cameras installed at the railway station were out of order, CCPO Tarin added.
The railway police chief claimed that they had spotted a mysterious bag at Platform No 2. “Head Constable Idrees and porter Muhammad Bota were checking the bag when the bomb concealed inside went off,” Ibn Hussain told The Express Tribune.
Dr Ahmed, district officer of Rescue 1122, confirmed that two people – Constable Idrees and porter Bota – were killed and over 60 wounded, eight of them critically.
The injured, many of them women and children, were shifted to Mayo Hospital, Services Hospital and Ganga Ram Hospital.
According to witnesses, at the time of the blast, over 200 passengers were waiting in the lounge to catch Night Coach of Karachi Express train which was delayed till 9pm.
Television footage showed a waiting room littered with glass and upended furniture, its windows blown in by the force of the explosion.
A vendor at Platform No 2 said that he saw a flash of light followed by a huge explosion. “Initially, I thought the blast occurred in the electric transformer. But then I saw injured people running from the site,” Adbur Rehman told The Express Tribune.
Another vendor Waheed Nauman said that no security measures were put in place at the railway station. “I myself entered the station unchecked several times. The railway police should be held accountable for the negligence,” he said.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed grief and shock over the attack.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced Rs500,000 compensation for the heirs of each of the dead and Rs75,000 and Rs50,000 respectively for each of the critically wounded and those with minor injuries.
Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour formed a commission to investigate the blast. Railway police chief Hussain will head the commission. In a statement issued from Islamabad, the minister also directed the police to enhance security at all railway stations in the country. (With additional input from Agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.