Suicide bomber targets census team in Punjab’s capital

Published: April 5, 2017
Armymen pay respect as an ambulance carrying the coffins of martyred soldiers passes through. PHOTO: AFP

Armymen pay respect as an ambulance carrying the coffins of martyred soldiers passes through. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE: In less than two months after the deadly Mall Road attack, terror revisited Punjab’s provincial capital on Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted a census team in Lahore’s outskirts, killing at least seven people – including four soldiers of the Pakistan Army – and injuring 15 others.

Outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) later claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to Punjab govt spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan, the attack took place early in the morning at Manawala Stop on Bedian Road, when army troops were boarding a van, engaged in census duty.

“The blast occurred at around 07.45 am when 17 soldiers of 186 # Census team of District Lahore were boarding a private van parked outside a shop. Soldiers had been gathering at the point for the last four days. From there they would be taken to their designated points of duty,” said a police official.

“Seven people including four soldiers and an officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were killed and 15 injured in the attack. Five of the injured were stated to be in critical condition. Three vans, a motorcycle and nearby shops were also damaged in the incident,” he added.

Initial investigations suggest that the bomber walked up to the van and detonated the explosives strapped to his body at the rear end of the van with a huge bang that was heard in a radius of several kilometres.

Ghulam Murtaza, a resident of the locality near the blast scene, said he was on his way home after dropping his children to school when he lost control of his bike due to a ‘deafening sound’.

“A few seconds later I resumed my senses and got up. I rushed towards the direction of the blast and saw bodies of a number of people in a pool of blood,” he said, adding that one of his neighbours, Awais Zaffar, was also lying among the injured along with his wife and minor child.

Rescue teams shifted the injured to Combined Military Hospital and Lahore General Hospital. Three victims were brought to hospital dead while four succumbed to injuries during treatment.

According to hospital sources, the deceased were identified as Awais Zafar (an employee of PAF), Muhamamd Boota and Abdul Rehman (passersby) and Sajid, Irshad, Abdullah and Riaz – all troops of Pakistan Army.

The injured, who included wife and minor child of Awais Zafar, were identified as Shakeel, Ehsan, Dil Baz, Altaf, Mumshad, Aslam, Majid, Irshad, Jamil, Afzal, Faiz Ahmad, Muhammad Farooq, Fareeha, Aslam, Usman, Arshad, Tahmeena and Abid.

Heavy contingent of police and paramilitary Rangers also reached the spot and cordoned off the crime scene with barbed wire and tents.

The Bomb Disposal Unit said around 10-12 kilos of explosive material was used in the suicide vest which also contained ball-bearings and shrapnel.

Security officials said they had recovered head of the alleged bomber from a nearby roof. “We have also found his legs from the crime scene. The bomber’s head is still recognizable,” said an official, adding that he looked 20-22-year-old.

The investigator said the attacker ‘appeared to be’ an Uzbek. “He resembles the sketch issued by SP Model Town a few weeks back,” he claimed, adding that the picture was pasted in all police stations of Lahore with intimation that a 24-year-old man identified as Irfan was a ‘potential’ suicide bomber.

However, the claim could not be confirmed independently or by a second source.

After the attack, the police, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and sensitive agencies launched a search operation in the nearby localities and arrested 17 suspects while checking identity of people through biometric machines.

The CTD was investigating the matter from different angles. They have collected Call Data Records of suspicious phones after geo-fencing. They are also collecting CCTV footage of the nearby areas to locate the bomber, his hideout and the passage he used to reach the spot.

An official told The Express Tribune that the modus operandi of the attacker and the location suggest that the attacker had not acted alone. “He must be staying there for quite some time. The attackers had recced the spot for a few days as the census van stationed there only for a few minutes.”

Funeral prayers of the four slain soldiers were held at Ayub Stadium. Punjab Governor Rafiq Rajwana, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Lord Mayor Colonel Mubashir, Corps Commander Lahore General Sadiq Ali, other dignitaries and a large number of soldiers participated in the funeral prayers.

Census will continue: General Qamar, PBS

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistic (PBS) chief expressed grief over loss of lives in the attack as they resolved to continue the census exercise.  “Conduct of census is a national obligation. Conduct of census will be completed at any cost,” said the army chief, according to the military’s media wing.

Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa said they will not succumb to any pressure and continue the census exercise.  Addressing a press briefing at the Bureau of Statistic Office, he said after the attack the government is considering devising a new security plan.

“The census staff will make a new plan with the consultation of the army,” he said. “I am satisfied with the census operation in the country.”  The first phase of census is going on in 63 districts of Pakistan and people who have not been counted should inform the relevant authorities in their areas, he added.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • FAZ
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:04AM

    Open all borders! Where are the “humaitarian crisis” callers?Recommend

  • Shahid
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:05AM

    For gods sake don’t scare people. First find out the cause. Its another cylinder blast.Recommend

  • Arif Mohammed
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:20AM

    Some how all the blasts initially are blamed on cylinders Recommend

  • AlphaBravoCharlie
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:46AM

    It is very much plausible that somehow terrorists are blowing up gas cylinders on purpose!

    God, dont we have any creative minds in ATC?Recommend

  • Saad
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:56AM

    Just eat the mango, what’s the use of counting trees?Recommend

  • Hassan
    Apr 5, 2017 - 11:10AM

    Open the Afghan Border and this will happen again and again.Recommend

  • BrainBro
    Apr 5, 2017 - 11:15AM

    For a typical brainwashed Pakistani, this is another day to pass the blame on to a conspiracy or the default mode: India. Even ISIS has a tough time convincing us of their attacks. They keep launching press releases of their attacks, and Pakistanis keep pointing fingers at their made-up enemy, India.Recommend

  • Sehr
    Apr 5, 2017 - 11:37AM

    Any blast that happens in punjab is a cylinder blast and will be soon confirmed by forensic lab. Recommend

  • Irfan
    Apr 5, 2017 - 12:12PM

    @BrainBro: Convey the Same message to your fellow Media and People .Recommend

  • Suhas
    Apr 5, 2017 - 12:14PM

    If it is indeed a cylinder blast, it is a coincidence that 4 soldiers were killed.Recommend

    Apr 5, 2017 - 12:14PM

    Look at the competence of law enforcement agencies they cannot agree on the source of the blast………..May Allah guide us all…….Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 5, 2017 - 1:59PM

    This is the price the people are paying for political patronage of the extremist lot.Recommend

  • furqan
    Apr 5, 2017 - 2:26PM

    These type of coward actions cannot weaken aur national unity,the enemy is not realizing that what bomb it is triggering because once our patience level will reach limit we will explode in a way that even the enemy’s signs would get missingRecommend

  • Faisal
    Apr 5, 2017 - 5:11PM

    India is NOT a made-up enemy. It is a real enemy that has tried to destroy us 3 times openly and once also in 1971 succeeded in cutting us in half. Realizing that it can NEVER destroy Pakistan in open overt wars, the Indians have resorted to sneaky sleazy cross-border terrorism to try to salvage something.
    What is made-up was the “one united India” THEORY propogated by Ghandi and Nehru and what is also made-up is that India is a “secular” country.
    Pretty soon Pakistan will wake up and the world will realize that currying favour with Indians is not the right approach. Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 5, 2017 - 6:12PM

    A very sad incident. Recommend

  • Muhammad Mahbub Allah
    Apr 5, 2017 - 9:03PM

    Very sad incidence. May ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SAT) Bless all of them in eternal peace. A’meen!Recommend

  • Billa
    Apr 5, 2017 - 10:48PM

    Not good. It is a long battle against terrorists before they are finished. May God give us the strength to tackle them and endure them for that long.Recommend

  • Grace
    Apr 5, 2017 - 11:40PM

    @Billa: The coward terrorists are working for the enemies of Pakistan since they are trying to stop CPEC and development. They forget that the people of Pakistan are not afraid of them and life will go on in Lahore no matter what. Close the border with Afghanistan where the Indian paid agents come in from.Recommend

  • Saghri
    Apr 6, 2017 - 3:02AM

    Close the Wahga border. No trade with India till the bomb blast in Lahore stops.Recommend

  • Sohail Gem Wazir
    Apr 6, 2017 - 7:53AM

    Salute to martyred soldiers and census team. Shame on Dawn. They call it simply “killed”. Recommend

  • Raghu
    Apr 6, 2017 - 12:01PM

    This is sadening but at the same time can anyone shed some attention to the Syrian kids being gassed.Recommend

  • Singh
    Apr 6, 2017 - 12:29PM

    Crush the terrorists.Recommend

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