Imran Gabol | Wasim Riaz | Adnan Sheikh | Rana Bilal | Kinza Malik | Reuters
At least eight people — five policemen and three civilians — were killed and 26 others injured in what officials described as a suicide bombing targeting an Elite Force van detailed to the security of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore on Wednesday.
The blast took place at 8:45am in the proximity of the police mobile, which was parked near Gate 2 of Data Darbar. Police officials said they suspect the blast was a suicide attack and that the police mobile was the target. An initial probe has revealed that the bomb contained seven kilograms of explosive material.
King Edward Medical University Vice Chancellor Professor Khalid Gondal said the death toll had risen to nine, while the condition of four of the injured is critical. Some of the wounded have also been admitted to Mayo Hospital, where an emergency has been imposed.
He added that seven bodies were at Mayo Hospital while two were at the morgue in King Edward Medical University.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Arif Nawaz confirmed that five Elite Force personnel were martyred in the blast.
He told reporters that the attack “100 per cent targeted police”, noting that police are posted near the shrine around the clock to provide security. He said that authorities had maintained a general security alert, but there had been no specific warning about a threat to the shrine.
The IGP said the attacker could have caused more damage because of the direction he had approached from, but he made a beeline for the police car stationed in the area for protection of the shrine.
A rescue operation was conducted in the area before it was cordoned off for investigation. The shrine was evacuated, with devotees moved out through exits away from the blast site. Entry to Data Darbar has since been restricted.
A heavy contingent of police, Counter-Terrorism Department and forensic officials are collecting evidence from the site of the attack. The IGP said police will share their findings once they conclude their probe.
All regional police officers and city police officers have been directed to examine security in their respective areas and remain alert during the month of Ramazan. Police have also set up checkpoints on main thoroughfares leading to the shrine and hospitals have been placed on alert, officials told Reuters.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the loss of lives in the attack, expressing grief and condoling with the victims’ families for their loss.
According to the DIG Operations Lahore, 306 police officials in the city have so far lost their lives in the line of duty.
Buzdar orders inquiry
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar condemned the attack and ordered an inquiry into the incident, summoning reports from the Punjab Inspector General of Police and the additional chief secretary of interior, according to a handout issued by the Punjab government.
The chief minister also called a high-level meeting at the Punjab Safe City Headquarters and cancelled his scheduled visits to Bhakkar, Sargodha and Sheikhupura.
He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and instructed administrations to provide the injured with the best facilities for treatment.
Data Darbar, also known as Data Ganjh Bakhsh, is one of the country’s most popular Sufi shrines where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried. Pakistanis in large numbers visit the shrine, where a pair of suicide attacks in 2010 killed and wounded dozens of people.