LAHORE: Lahore police came under attack for the second time in the past six months on Monday.
In February 2017, six police officials, including two senior officers, were killed in a suicide blast and now at least nine members of the force have lost their lives in the deadly attack that ripped through Kot Lakhpat Fruit and Vegetable Market near Arfa Software Technology Park on Monday.
Police officials said both attacks were similar as cops were the target of the terrorists. Earlier, a suicide bomber attacked police officials while they were negotiating with angry pharmacists protesting in favour of their demands. Monday’s suicide attack targeted police officials deployed to clear street vendors from the area as Lahore Development Authority (LDA) was demolishing buildings in the vegetable market.
Speaking to the media, Deputy Inspector General of Police Dr Haider Ashraf confirmed it was a suicide attack and police was the target. Though no group has claimed responsibility yet, he said, such blasts had often been carried out by Pakistani Taliban militants.
He underscored terrorists could not stop police and law enforcing agencies from performing their duties. “Law enforcing agencies are committed to curb the menace of terrorism from the country,” he maintained.
An eyewitness, Muhammad Aneeq, who was passing from the Ferozpur Road, said he heard a terrible blast. “I saw human bodies, including those of police officials, scattered everywhere at the blast site. I myself shifted a couple of victims to the nearby Ittefaq Hospital. I cannot even begin to express the horror of the crime scene,” he said, breathing heavily.
Another injured, Khalid, who was admitted to Jinnah Hospital, recalled that he heard a loud bang and there was a huge cloud of dust near the vegetable market. “I was hit by some sharp particle and fell on the ground. I do not remember what happened afterward. When I opened my eyes, I was here in hospital,” he said.
Police official Zaheer Hussain said he was performing his duty along with his colleagues on Ferozpur Road when this unfortunate incident occurred. Hussain, who had multiple injuries to the body, said he was not sure whether the suicide bomber used a motorbike or a car in the blast. A police party was deployed to clear the vegetable market as the LDA was demolishing illegal shops in the market. Suddenly, a huge blast was heard near the police party and he could still recall how bodies of his colleagues, labourers and passersby were scattered on the roadside. “It was horrific. I pray that there is peace in Pakistan,” he added.
Lahore has been at the receiving end of several terror attacks this year. Less than two months after the deadly Mall Road attack, terror revisited Punjab’s provincial capital in April 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.
The blast occurred at around 7.45 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 were 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.
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.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2017.