You know it’s going to be a bad day when you wake up to news of bomb blasts in two of Pakistan’s main cities. At least 13 people were killed and more than 50 were injured (Geo News put the number higher, at 70) when a suicide bomber targeted a Shiite procession near Bhatti gate in central Lahore today. Many of the injured, noted the Guardian, were from Pakistan’s security forces. BBC News cited Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who said he expected the death toll to rise.
A senior police official told reporters, “It definitely appears to be a suicide attack…A young boy tried to rush in and throw a bag into the crowd. When he was stopped, he blew himself up.” Lahore police chief Aslam Tarin further affirmed that the bomber was just thirteen years old, who detonated his explosives when police tried to check him “at a cordon near the procession.”
The processions today, noted Dawn, marked “Chehlum or Arba’in, the end of a 40-day religious mourning period for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), who was killed during a battle in A.D. 680 in Karbala.” According to the Guardian’s coverage, “…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.”
According to CNN, a militant group called Fedeyeen-e-Islam claimed responsibility for the Lahore attack, and its spokesman Shakir Ullah Shakir labeled Shiites “enemies of Islam.” The news agency noted, “The group is an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban and Laskhar-e Jangvi…One of the senior leaders of Fedayeen-e Islam is Qari Hussein — widely believed to be the trainer of child suicide bombers for the Pakistani Taliban.”
Not long after the bombing in Lahore, another blast struck Karachi. The BBC cited police officials, who said the bomber had “tried to ram a bus carrying Shia devotees. The attacker targeted a police Jeep instead after it blocked his way.” Two police officers were killed in the attack, and more are reported to be critically injured.
If these blasts show anything, it’s that “the real enemies of Islam” are those who kill innocent civilians, who continue to terrorize the heart of this nation. The target of the blasts in Lahore and Karachi appear, once again, to be an attack on the country’s minorities [see this piece on the targeting of religious minorities], but many policemen also died or were injured in the blasts. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, as well as to the numbers of policemen who risk their lives every day by just going to work.
The Lahore bombing was reportedly perpetrated by yet another child suicide bomber, further illustrating how we need to probe the issues and root causes that lead to the recruitment and brainwashing of hundreds of young boys by militant groups, [see Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s documentary, Children of the Taliban for more, as well as this piece I wrote for June issue of the CTC Sentinel last year].
CHUP will continue to update this space as more details come in.