At least 55 people, including children and security personnel, were killed and about 200 others injured in a powerful suicide blast in Pakistan at Wagah on Sunday.
The al-Qaeda affiliated group, Jundallah, has claimed responsibility for the viscious attack, according to Express News. The bomb exploded outside a restaurant near a Pakistani paramilitary soldiers’ checkpoint at Wagah border.
“A large number of people were returning after watching Rangers flag ceremony at Wagah border when a suicide bomber blew himself up near one of the exit gates,” said the Inspector General of the Punjab Police, Mushtaq Sukhera. He also said that three Pakistan Rangers personnel were among the dead. When asked how this could happen Sukhera responded by saying, “The Rangers had made stringent security measures but it was difficult to check the suicide bomber”.
Huge crowds congregate every evening at the crossing, 22 kilometres from Lahore, to watch a “lowering of the flags” ceremony and the ensuing military pageantry. Soldiers from both sides of the divide have been conducting this ceremonial “lowering of the flag” for several decades so an attack here seems even more heinous.
In the wake of Muharram, the police had made strict security measures, “We had reports that some banned outfits might target Shias, religious personalities, public processions and important buildings,” said the Inspector General. He also disclosed that as much as five kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast.
Imdad Husain, an eyewitness, told reporters that he was returning after watching the parade ceremony when he heard a bang near the Wagah border market. “I fell unconscious. When I gained consciousness there was complete darkness. I cried for help lying on the road. After 15 minutes some rescue men came and shifted me to the Ghurki Hospital, a border area health facility,” A senior doctor at Ghurki Hospital said that the condition of over a dozen of the injured is critical.
The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has condemned the Lahore blast and ordered the authorities concerned to provide best medical facilities to the injured. Whereas on the Indian side, Border Security Force Inspector General, Ashok Kumar, assured that there is no need to panic since the attack occurred across the border on the Pakistani side.
“The blast occurred 500 metre from the border on Pakistan side. There is no problem on our side, our side is safe. We are trying to get in touch with Pakistan Rangers. We are alert, there is no need to panic”, said Kumar. This, whilst appearing callous from Kumar, is merely an attempt to quiet doubts from his own countrymen about the safety of the border defence.
Despite this claim by Kumar the Ministry of Home Affairs has put the Border Security force on “high alert” in case of another attack.
This most recent attack has come as a shock considering that there has thus far been little activity on the border, especially to this level. This loss of life should hopefully lead to a much more vigilant governmental response to terroristic threats and can prevent another attack like this from occurring.