42 perish as suicide bombers hit shrine
Published Date: July 03, 2010
LAHORE: Pakistani police went on high alert yesterday after two suicide bombers
blew themselves up among crowds of worshippers at an Islamic shrine in the
eastern city of Lahore, killing 42 people. The carnage at the Sufi shrine on
Thursday was caught on camera in dramatic CCTV footage showing the bombers and
the blast which sent hundreds of panicked worshippers fleeing in all directions
engulfed in clouds of white smoke.
Pakistan's Taleban, which has been instrumental in a wave of bloody attacks
blamed on Islamist militants over the past three years, denied it was involved
Thursday's bombings. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the
attacks and called for law enforcement authorities to do everything catch those
responsible. "The government is committed to eradicate the menace of terrorism
at all costs," he said shortly after the bombers struck the shrine dedicated to
Sufi saint Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajwer
i, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh.
More than 5,000 people, mostly followers of the saint, staged a protest rally
in Lahore after Muslim Friday prayers and similar demonstrations were held in
other cities across the country. Most bazaars and markets remained closed and
large numbers of police were on patrol in Lahore, considered a playground for
Pakistan's elite and home to many top brass in the military and intelligence
Security was particularly tight around mosques for the weekly prayers. More
than 3,400 people have been killed in a three-year bombing campaign by Taleban
and Al-Qaeda-linked militants to avenge Pakistani military operations the
government's alliance with the US over the war in neighboring Afghanistan. But
a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan denied it was involved in Thursday's
attack, the second bloody bombing against religious sites in the city of 10
million people in just over a month.
We are not responsible for these attacks, this is a conspiracy by foreign
secret agencies, you know we do not attack public places," Azam Tariq said 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."
The group was thrust into the global spotlight over its alleged involvement in
a plot to blow up a car bomb in New York's Times Square in May.
Thousands of people were at the centuries-old shrine at the time of the blasts,
which engulfed the site in a huge cloud of smoke and left the white marble
floor splattered with blood, body parts and people's belongings. "I saw dead
bodies and injured people lying on the floor in pools of blood," said one
witness. Authorities said they had found the heads of two suicide bombers, who
wore the green turbans of Sufi followers, and were investigating how they had
managed to penetrate the area despite strict security measures.
The CCTV footage showed a guard chasing one of the bombers just moments before
he set off his explosives belt. "We were searching everyone walking through the
gate. One bomber crossed the gate and a security guard ran to catch him because
he was suspicious but in the meantime he blew himself up," Rao Fazal-ur-Rehman,
an administrator at the shrine said.
Prominent Muslim scholar Mufti Muneeb-ur Rehman said suicide attacks targeting
innocent people were absolutely against the teachings of Islam. "Such people
are enemies of Islam," he told private TV channel GEO. "Suicide attackers are
destined to hell." After escaping much of the bloodshed in other parts of
Pakistan in recent years, Lahore has increasingly suffered Taleban and
Al-Qaeda-linked violence, with around 265 people killed in nine attacks since
March last year.
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. 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. - AFP
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