LAHORE: The scenes of carnage at one of the most popular shrines in the world was caught on camera by closed-circuit television, which recorded the bombers in the final moments before they blew themselves up. As the death toll from Thursday’s bombing at Lahore’s Data Darbar rose to 42, the police claim to have identified one of the bombers.
The gruesome incident also spurred the law-enforcement agencies into action, with seven alleged terrorists – four suicide bombers and three handlers – nabbed from Lahore in a huge bust. The raid is said to have found 3,500 kilogrammes of explosives, 20 suicide jackets, 25,000 bullet rounds, rocket launchers and 25 police uniforms in the possession of the accused. The suspects, who are said to have links with the Manawan police training centre attacks, have been taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation – but initial reports suggest that an attack was planned in coming days.
The fallout of the incident included the Taliban coming out to deny involvement in the attack at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, known as Data Darbar, and the international community expressing deep shock at incident.
The dramatic footage shows a security guard at the shrine chasing after one of the bombers shortly before a huge blast which sent crowds of panicked worshippers fleeing in all directions.
The images broadcast by Express News were obtained from close circuit television cameras installed at the shrine where the twin suicide attack late Thursday left 42 worshippers dead. They showed hundreds of followers of the Sufi saint thronging the centuries-old mausoleum before the blast, as is customary on Thursday nights.
A guard identified as Salim Raza, who was posted at an entry gate equipped with a scanner, detected a suspicious man clad in a green turban, white shalwar kameez and a shawl and carrying a bag. He ran after the bomber who seconds later detonated his explosives, engulfing the site in a huge cloud of smoke and leaving the white marble floor splattered with blood, body parts and people’s belongings.
Authorities said they had found the heads of the two suicide bombers and were investigating how they managed to penetrate into the area despite strict security measures.
Police, meanwhile, identified one of suicide bombers as Muhammad Rafiq, alias Usman, a resident of the Barki Hadyara area in Lahore. Usman’s two brothers – Sharif and Latif – helped in the identification. Police have taken them into custody for further questioning. The two revealed that Rafiq was affiliated with a religious group and had been missing for the last few months.
The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Justice Khwaja Sharif has taken suo moto notice of the Data Darbar attack and summoned the city police chief Muhammad Aslam Tareen on July 5.
The shrine was opened on Friday only during prayers timings. However Khuddams (volunteer workers) remained busy washing the floors and walls of the mausoleum. The basement, where large intensity blast occurred, was kept locked as the ceiling of a portion was damaged and its debris could not be removed. British Foreign Secretary William Hague branded the attacks as a “vicious and inhuman act”.
“Britain stands alongside the people and government of Pakistan against those who commit such appalling atrocities,” Hague said. “We will be a firm friend to Pakistan as it works towards a safer and more prosperous future for all its citizens, and will continue our resolute support for efforts to prevent such attacks in the future.”
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the incident showed the scale of the extremist threat in Pakistan. “The deadly attack against the Data Darbar in Lahore is yet another vivid example of the scale of the terrorist threat and extremism in Pakistan,” Ashton said in a statement.
Ashton was “shocked and saddened at these horrific events and extends her deepest sympathies to the families of the bereaved,” she said.
Spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs Vishnu Prakash said: “The government strongly condemns the terrorist attacks on Data Darbar in Lahore and expresses sympathies to the families of the bereaved.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) denied it was involved in the attack. “We are not responsible for these attacks; this is a conspiracy by foreign secret agencies; you know we do not attack public places,” the TTP spokesperson, Azam Tariq, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We condemn this brutal act. Our target is very clear and we only attack police, army and other security personnel.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2010.
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