LAHORE: In the first terrorist attack of its kind in the Punjab capital, two alleged suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine on Thursday night, killing at least 41 people and injuring 170 others.
The first explosion took place in the basement reserved for ablution and the second in front of the shrine’s main building where a large number of people from across the province gather for worship on Thursdays.
At first, police announced that some crackers had exploded near the shrine.
The two bombers entered the shrine and exploded themselves three minutes apart.
Surveillance cameras, walkthrough gates and metal detectors turned out to be ineffective.
Around 100 volunteers and several policemen were present in and around the shrine, searching visitors thoroughly.
Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Chaudhry Shafiq Ahmad told Dawn that two suicide attacks had been carried out and investigators had found the bombers’ skulls and limbs.
He said ball-bearings and other material used in the blasts had also been collected.
Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervaiz Bakhtiar told journalists at the spot that the bombers had blown themselves up during a large congregation.
In reply to a question about involvement of a foreign hand in the attack, he said the strike was a horrible conspiracy but “our own people become instruments in the hands of others”.
The official said an investigation had been launched about the breach in security measures.
According to witnesses, the explosions were so powerful that a large number of people fell down and several of them were injured in a stampede.
The shrine’s administration announced seconds after the first blast that a generator had exploded in the basement and they might continue their activities.
The bomb disposal squad estimated that 10-15kgs of explosives had been used in each suicide jacket.
Ambulances of Rescue 1122 and the Edhi Foundation took the bodies and injured people to hospitals.
According to a devotee, two gates on the north and south side of the shrine, which usually remain closed, were open on Thursday. He suspected that the bombers had entered through those gates.
Scores of enraged people gathered outside the shrine and protested against terror attacks. They also damaged public and private property.
There were reports that a cracker was exploded before the suicide blasts to create a panic.
Police evacuated Data Darbar to collect evidence and carry out rescue work.
All commercial and residential buildings adjoining the shrine were also searched for suspects.
Following the blasts, an extensive crackdown was launched across the city and several people were detained for interrogation.
A suspect was also taken into custody near the Darbar.
Rumours of terror attacks on other shrines in the city panicked devotees and police also launched a search operation there.
Security was beefed up in and around all shrines and religious places.
Source: Dawn – 02.07.2010