LAHORE: At least 27 people were killed and more than 200 injured in three bomb attacks near Karbala Gamay Shah on a procession taken out on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (RA). A child was among the dead.
Reacting violently to the explosions, people in the procession attacked a police building, set public property on fire and fought with riot police for more than an hour.
The blasts, two of which the police confirmed were suicide attacks, took place in a span of 20 minutes despite what appeared to be tight police security.
Witnesses said a suicide bomber blew himself up at a security barrier at Karbala Gamay Shah chowk at around 7pm when a large number of people were there after the culmination of the main procession.
According to the website of an Urdu newspaper, the group named Lashkar-i-Jhanghvi Al Aalmi claimed responsibility for the attack. Police said they had no information about any such claim.
The attack came at a time when all those connected with the procession must have been looking forward to relax after a day of fasting and mourning. They had broken the fast and the Maghrib prayers were to be offered.
The procession had reached the destination and the law-enforcement personnel must have heaved a sigh of relief at having seen the rally through.
The attack was followed five minutes later by another blast, said to be caused by a timed device, around the nearby Bhati chowk.
The third blast, again a suicide attack, took place at the traffic signal at the chowk.
People, including women and children, fled in all directions in panic.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (operations) Rao Sardar Ali Khan told Pak Times that the two bombers had exploded themselves after having been stopped at barriers by policemen. At least seven policemen were injured.
The DIG said police had found two skulls and limbs believed to be of the suicide bombers and sent them for forensic examination.
He said police were uncertain about the nature of the third blast which also could have been a suicide explosion.
He said police had anticipated that such attacks could take place and maximum security measures had been taken for the procession.
People started raising slogans against police after the second blast.
As soon as the third blast took place, they divided into groups, pelted police with stones and set government and private vehicles on fire.
A large number of policemen, who were also divided into groups to counter the protesters, first acted in a defensive manner. But after the mob let off a volley of stones on the Lower Mall police station and set some motorcycles and vehicles on fire, they hit back.
Riot police fired in the air to disperse the mob.
The protesters damaged both gates and lights of the city division police building.
Police managed to disperse the mob at about 8.30pm.
The protesters criticised police for failing to maintain security and chanted slogans against the PML-N leadership and the Punjab police.