LAHORE: A wave of mourning engulfed the country in the wake of yesterday’s deadly suicide attack in Lahore claiming at least 13 lives and the city’s residents railed at the government for failing to protect them.
The chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif declared a day of mourning after Monday’s blast on Lahore’s Mall Road, one of the city’s main arteries.
An FIR of the Lahore blast has been registered. Police said three accomplices fled the scene right after the deadly attack.
At least 13 people were killed, including six police officers, while up to 87 were injured.
The toll could have been much higher, officials said, but for two vehicles — a TV news van and a minivan belonging to the protesters — which absorbed much of the impact of the blast.
According to AFP, the Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the assault, which came three days after it announced it would carry out a series of attacks on government installations around the country.
The attack underscored the challenges faced by Pakistan in its push to stamp out militancy, even as security dramatically improved in 2015 and 2016.
Local groups like the umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) retain the ability to carry out spectacular attacks, despite a military-led crackdown on extremism.
Lahore residents vented their fury at the militants and the government at the blast site early Tuesday.
“They (the militants) have no link with any religion, the only thing they know is killing people, this is utterly an act of terrorism,” Tariq Saleem told AFP.
Nadeem Akhter called on the government to do more to bring the situation under control. “Our children and people are being killed in these attacks,” he said.
Both British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew and US ambassador David Hale branded the attack “cowardly” in separate statements, expressing support for the victims.
Lahore suffered one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks during 2016 — a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomb in a park last Easter that killed more than 70 including many children.
But such incidents have been rare in the city in recent years.
Shortly after Monday’s attack two members of a bomb disposal team were killed in Quetta, while trying to defuse a device.