ISLAMABAD: A day after a deadly suicide bombing outside the Police Lines in Lahore, a lone bomber killed three persons at an Imambargah in the federal capital but failed to enter the main prayer hall or detonate his explosive vest.
The outlawed Jundullah extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack on Qasar-e-Sakina Imambargah located on Kuri Road during Maghribain prayers.
Witnesses said the bomber, who was also armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, ran towards the Imambargah and fired at the main entrance, killing two guards and a worshipper and injuring two others. The bomber also hurled a hand grenade which was deflected as the worshippers inside locked the door.
Some media reports claimed that one of the guards had prevented the bomber from entering the compound. However, these reports could not be substantiated.
“I heard gunshots and rushed out of my house. I saw a man who hurled a grenade and then ran into the Imambargah,” said local resident Ahmed Nisar.
“The suicide bomber had opened fire before trying to enter the Imambargah which caused the causalities,” a police spokesman said. A Punjab police officer present at the site added that the bomber’s vest did not explode or else there would have been many casualties.
However, IG Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan said the suicide vest partially exploded, killing only the bomber. “Half of the vest remained intact which was subsequently defused by an army team,” he added.
The bomber appeared to be in his twenties, IG Khan said, adding that they have collected his fingerprints for identification.
Soon after the blast, police and army troops threw a security cordon around the area as Rescue 1122 and locals shifted the casualties to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
The police identified the dead as Ghulam Hussain, 60, Abdul Shakoor, 56, and Sakhawat Hussain, 60. Only two persons – Muhammad Altaf Hussain, 56, and Sajjad Hussain Shah, 72 – were injured in the attack, according to the police. Locals, however, said some injured were also driven to a hospital in nearby Rawalpindi.
Fahad Marwat, a spokesman for the banned Jundullah extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan Agency.
The attack is the latest in a wave of deadly sectarian attacks. On January 30, over 60 people were killed in a bombing at Karbala Moalla Imambargah in Shikarpur. Similarly, at least 23 people were killed in a gun and suicide attack on Imamia Masjid in Peshawar’s Hayatabad neighbourhood on February 15.
The attack triggered a protest by angry residents who blocked the Expressway for traffic and chanted slogans against the government for its ‘failure’ to provide security in the federal capital.
Shia Ulema Council Secretary General Allama Arif Hussain Wahidi said the blast was a result of the non-implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. If the government cannot ensure security in the federal capital, how it could maintain law and order in the rest of the country, he said.
“Enemies want to see an end of the Shia-Sunni unity but that will not happen,” he said, adding that the attackers were enemies of the state.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2015.
Shia Ulema Council Secretary General Allama Arif Hussain Wahidi said that the blast was a result of the non-implementation of the National Action Plan.
While condemning the blast, Wahidi said that if the government is incapable of controlling attacks in the capital and garrison city how they would control situation in the rest of the country. “Enemies want to see an end of the Shia-Sunni unity, but that will not happen,” he said, adding that the attackers are the enemies of the state and the state should immediately respond with force, our correspondent Rizwan Shezad reports.
The police claimed that the blast occurred when people were preparing for eveing prayers, adding that a security guard managed to close the gate of the Imambargah which immensely reduced the impact of the blast, our correspondent Rizwan Shehzad reports.
The police have identified deceased as Ghulam Hussain s/o Khan Muhammad, 60, Abdul Shakoor s/o Makhan Khan, 56, and Sakhawat Hussain s/o Bahar Hussain, 60.
The injured include Muhammad Altaf Hussain, 56, and Sajjad Hussain Shah, 72.
The FIR will be registered at the Shahzad Town police station in Islamabad, says our correspondent Fawad Ali.
Syed Atif Hussain Shah, a local, told The Express Tribune that this was not the first time the imambargah had been targeted. In 2009 it had been attacked, leaving a girl dead.
However, he added, religious harmony prevailed in the area, an example of which is the existence of a mosque, adjacent to the imambargah.
“The imambargah and the mosque adjacent to it only have a four-foot wall between them. They have been there for many years, and there has been no clash between them.”
The blast took place near the mosque in the imambargah compound, our correspondent Fawad Ali reports.
An army bomb disposal unit arrives at the site of the blast to defuse the suicide jacket, our correspondent Fawad Ali reports.
PHOTO: AGHA MAHROZ/EXPRESS
The death toll now stands at three, according to PIMS spokesperson Dr Ayesha Ishani.
A police spokesperson said that the attacker’s suicide vest was faulty and did not detonate completely. The attacker died as a result of the grenade explosion.
Further, the suicide vest has been defused, our correspondent Fawad Ali reports.
Condemning the attack, the leader of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen requested army chief General Raheel Sharif to expand Operation Zarb-e-Azb into Punjab as well.
“We will stage a long march if Shia killings do not stop,” he said while addressing the media. He also demanded the arrest of the culprits.
A Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jundullah claims responsibility for the attack.
A search operation has been initiated in surrounding areas, including Shakrial, Sadiqabad and Shahzad Town, our correspondent Rizwan Shehzad reports.
One of the attackers has reportedly been arrested from inside the imambargah, our correspondent Fawad Ali reports.
Ahmed Nisar, an eyewitness who lives close to the imambargah, recounts what he saw during the attack.
“I saw a man throw a grenade, he was rushing inside the premises. As soon as he was inside, we heard an explosion,” he said.
According to an eyewitness, two accomplices of the bomber ran inside the mosque as well but did not blow themselves up.
The attacker fired at the main gate after which two people died on the spot, according to our correspondent Fawad Ali.
The attacker then reportedly threw a grenade and ran into the building but his jacket did not fully detonate.
A search operation has been launched at the site of the blast.
Army personnel, Rangers and police officials are present, our correspondent Fawad Ali reports.
Further, a large number of residents are protesting against the attack near the site of the attack.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have condemned the blast.
Further, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has also condemned the attack.
The critically wounded under treatment at PIMS have been identified as Mohammad Altaf, Syed Shaukat Hussain and Sajjad Hussain.
PML-N MNA Marvi Memon condemned the incident and termed it a reaction to the ongoing military operation launched against militants.
Express News screengrab of the site of the blast
Four injured victims, three of whom are in critical condition, shifted to PIMS.
As per initial reports the blast occurred when a suicide bomber blew himself up after security officials stopped him from entering the imambargah.
The guard of the imambargah is said to have sacrificed his life while attempting to stop the bomber from entering the premises.
So far, two bodies and three injured victims have been shifted to PIMS, according to the hospital’s spokesperson Dr Ayesha Ishani.
The deceased have been identified as Ghulam Hussain and Abdul Shakoor.
According to initial reports, the attack was a suicide blast.
The imambargah is located in a high security zone, in the vicinity of expressway, the main highway which links the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The imambragah falls within the jurisdiction of Shehzad Town police station.
Here’s a Google image of the location of the imambargah.
The explosion reportedly took place during Maghreb prayers.
Express News screengrab of the site of the blast
Police have cordoned off the area and rescue efforts are underway.
According to Rescue 1122, the explosion took place in Qasr-e-Sakina imambargah.
The blast preceded heavy aerial firing which continued for 20 minutes, according to an eye witness account.
Due to the impact of the blast, windows of nearby buildings broke.
Law enforcement agencies and rescue officials have reached the site of the blast.
The nature of the blast is not yet known.
This was the fourth major attack on an imambargah this year; the first being an attack on Rawalpindi’s imambargah Aun Mohammad Rizvi earlier in the year. Imambargah’s were also attacked in Shikarpur and Peshawar.