Death toll rises to 61 in attack at Wagah Border

RSTV Bureau

pakistan_blastThe death toll in the horrific suicide attack that shook Pakistan minutes after the popular flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah climbed to 61 on Monday.

Ten women, eight children and three security personnel were among the 61 people who have died in the attack that took place on Sunday when a suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb at Wagah.

Over 100 people were injured in the incident and are being treated in different Lahore’s hospitals where emergency has been declared.

The blast took place when a large number of people were returning after attending the flag lowering ceremony at the main Indo-Pak land border crossing, which is heavily guarded by the Punjab Rangers.

“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,” Inspector General Police of Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera said. He said three Pakistani Rangers were also among the dead.

Punjab Rangers Director General Khan Tahir Khan said: “The suicide bomber failing to enter the main gate leading to the parade lane blew himself up 500 to 600 metres away…Three rangers personnel present at the main gate have been killed while five others suffered critical injuries.”

“The death toll of the devastating suicide attack at Wagah border has risen to 61. The condition of some injured is still critical and the doctors are battling to save their lives,” Punjab Emergency Services Rescue spokesman Jam Sajjad told.

In the wake of Muharram, the police had made strict security arrangements.

Al-Qaeda affiliated militant group Jandullah, which was behind a suicide bombing that killed at least 78 Christians at a church in Peshawar in September 2013, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed “grief and sorrow” and condemned the blast. He ordered authorities to provide best medical assistance to the injured.

The government has also announced Rs500,000 to the kin of those killed and Rs75,000 for the kin of those injured.

A high alert has been issued along the Attari border area following the blast on Sunday evening at Wagah on the Pakistan side even as BSF officials said that the flag-lowering ceremony for the day on the Indian side, which attracts a lot of visitors, was over by the time the attack occurred.

BSF Deputy Inspector General RPS Jaswal said that immediately after the blast, a high alert was issued keeping in view the security aspects on the Indo-Pak border here.

According to Jaswal, the blast occurred at 6.10 P.M. IST and the flag-lowering ceremony was over by that time and no visitors were there in the area.

Following the blast, BSF personnel were seen with sophisticated weapons near the Indo-Pak international gate, which was closed immediately after the flag-lowering ceremony.

Punjab Interior Minister Col (Retd) Shujah Khanzada said the target of the suicide bomber was the venue of the flag hoisting ceremony.

“The suicide-bomber wanted to reach the Parade Avenue to cause maximum devastation but he blew himself up near the entrance of the main gate after failing to reach the Parade Avenue,” he said.

At least 15 to 20 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the blast with some of the explosives in the attacker’s suicide jacket and the remaining being carried by him.

Punjab Law Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman has termed the suicide blast a “security lapse”.

There would be no flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah for the general public for three days, a Punjab Rangers spokesman said.

“The decision has been taken to mourn the killings of the Sundays attack,” he said, adding that India’s BSF also told the rangers that it would also not invite the public for the ceremony for three days.