Suicide bombers kill 42 at Pakistan shine

2010-07-02 08:19

Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, was on high alert today after

two suicide bombers blew themselves up in an Islamic shrine packed with

worshippers, killing 42 people and wounding scores more.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Pakistan has

been hit by a wave of attacks carried out by the Taliban and other

al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists that have killed more than 3 400 people in

the past three years.

Television pictures from the scene of the carnage at a shrine

dedicated to a Sufi saint showed people crying, and beating their chests and

heads. Bystanders helped ambulance crews load the wounded into vehicles to take

them to hospital.

“The first blast occurred in the basement, followed by another one

with a deafening sound,” said one witness.

“I saw dead bodies and injured people lying on the floor in pools

of blood,” said another.

Thousands of people were at the shrine in the crowded centre of

Lahore dedicated to Sufi saint Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, popularly

known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, at the time of the attacks.

Evil designs

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the

attacks: “Terrorists have no consideration for any religion, faith or

belief.”

“These terrorists neither respect human values nor care for human

lives, and their brutal act is a manifestation of their evil designs,” he

said.

The shrine’s caretaker said the blasts occurred within minutes,

triggering panic and sending people running in different directions.

“A total of 42 people have been martyred,” said Mazhar Ahmad, a

senior rescue official.

Khusro Pervez, the city’s top administration official, also

confirmed the death toll.

Authorities said they had found the heads of two suicide bombers

and were investigating how they had penetrated the area despite strict security

measures.

Another senior city police official, Chaudhry Shafiq, confirmed two

suicide attacks and said one bomber blew himself up in the complex’s courtyard

while the second detonated his explosive vest in the basement of the

shrine.

Hours after the blasts, two firecrackers exploded near the American

consulate and Lahore Press Club, adding to nervousness in the city.

“Nobody was hurt in these two blasts. These were cracker bombs,”

said Mohammad Faisal Rana, a senior police official.

Large numbers of police and other security personnel were

patrolling all busy and sensitive areas in Lahore, a city of 10 million

people.

Security was particularly tight around mosques ahead of weekly

Muslim prayers, Rana said.

Lahore has increasingly suffered Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked

violence, with 265 people killed in nine attacks since March last year.

The city is considered a playground for Pakistan’s elite, and is

home to many top brass in the military and intelligence community.

“There were at least 2 000 people present in the shrine when the

twin attacks took place,” said the shrine’s caretaker, Mian Mohammad

Munir.

Gilani said he had directed the provincial government and law

enforcement agencies to investigate the attack and catch those

responsible.

A senior investigating officer said that the bomber in the basement

set off his vest after he was intercepted by a group of worshippers and that

police were combing the scene for forensic clues.

Sufism is a mystical movement that spreads the message of Islam

through music, poetry and dancing. Radical groups consider the movement, which

includes both Shiites and Sunnis, as un-Islamic.

In May, suspected Sunni Muslim militants wearing suicide vests

burst into two Ahmadi prayer halls in Lahore and killed 82 worshippers.

They were the worst attacks in Pakistan since a suicide bomber

killed 101 people on January 1 at a volleyball game in Bannu near the tribal

belt along the Afghan border that Washington calls al-Qaeda’s global

headquarters.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have orchestrated a

three-year bombing campaign in Pakistan to avenge military operations and the

government’s alliance with the United States over the war in neighbouring

Afghanistan.

 

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