Twin suicide blasts killed at least 37 people Thursday and injured scores more at the tomb of an Islamic saint in Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, a city official said.
“At least 37 people were killed and 175 injured” in two suicide attacks at a complex housing the tomb of a Sufi saint, Lahore city police chief Aslam Tareen told AFP.
Another senior city police official, Chaudhry Shafiq also confirmed two suicide attacks and said one bomber blew himself up in the courtyard while the second one detonated his explosive vest in the basement of the shrine.
Thousands at shrine
Thousands of people were present at the shrine dedicated to Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, at the time of the attacks on Thursday night.
Earlier, police and city administration officials had said there were three suicide attacks at the busy shrine, known as Data Darbar, in the crowded centre of the city which is home to around 10 million people.
“It was a suicide bombing and we have found the heads of two suicide bombers,” Khusro Pervez, commissioner of Lahore said, adding “We are looking into the circumstances around how the bombers penetrated the area despite strict security.”
‘No consideration for religion’
People gather at the shrine in a very large numbers every Thursday.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attacks, saying: “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 manifestation of their evil designs,” he said.
“The government is committed to eradicate the menace of terrorism at all costs”.
Gilani said he had directed the provincial government and the law enforcement agencies to investigate the attack and catch those responsible.
No claims of responsibility
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but Pakistan has been hit by a wave of deadly attacks carried out by the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists.
In May suspected Sunni Muslim militants wearing suicide vests burst into two Ahmadi prayer halls in two neighbourhoods of 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, which abuts the tribal belt along the Afghan border that Washington calls Al-Qaeda’s global headquarters.
Pakistan’s leading rights group said the Ahmadi community — an offshoot of Islam that is not recognised by Pakistan’s mainstream Muslims — had received threats for more than a year. Officials blamed that attack on Islamist militants who have killed more than 3,400 people in bombings over the last three years.
Increasing attacks in Pakistan
Lahore has increasingly suffered Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence, with around 265 people killed in nine attacks since March 2009.
The city is a playground for Pakistan’s elite and home to many top brass in its military and intelligence establishment.
Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have orchestrated the 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.