Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A suicide attack on a religious procession in Lahore's old city has killed 13 people, including three police, and injured more than 50.
The blast occurred on the fringes of a Shia procession when a teenage boy blew himself up after being challenged by police, a senior officer said.
Footage showed rescuers carrying the wounded, including children, as ambulances raced through the streets. A man was seen lying on the ground with two women and a child weeping over him.
Most of the injured – reported to number 53 – came from among the security forces, officials said. City hospitals declared an emergency.
It was the first act of extremist violence in a major Pakistani city since the assassination of the Punjab governor, Salmaan Tasser, on 4 January.
The Lahore procession marked the end of the month of Muhurram, a mourning period that is traditionally revered by Pakistan's minority Shias but often targeted by Sunni extremists – some with links to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Shakirullah Shakir, a spokesman for the Fidayeen-e-Islam wing of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a call to the Associated Press, and warned of more attacks.
In comparison with previous years, this year Muhurram had been peaceful, with just a few small-scale violent incidents in the north-west earlier this month.
But last week the interior ministry warned the Punjab government of a possible car bomb attack during today's procession, and provided the details of three suspect vehicles.
The Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, said the suspected bomber was aged around 14 and had been carrying a bag as he tried to reach the marchers. When the police insisted on searching him, he set off the explosives.
"We should salute the police officials who laid down their lives but did not let the bomber escape in the procession," he said.
Although the number of violent deaths in Pakistan fell last year, attacks tripled in the largest cities of Lahore and Karachi, according to a recent report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.
Posted by Cole at 7:57 AM