Pakistan mourns dead

SAD MOMENT: Mourners offer funeral prayers for Hassan Ali, a victim of the blast Picture: REUTERS
SAD MOMENT: Mourners offer funeral prayers for Hassan Ali, a victim of the blast
Picture: REUTERS

Residents express anger at state’s failure to end violence after latest attack

Pakistanis mourned the victims yesterday of a Taliban suicide bomb in Lahore which killed 13 people, as the city’s residents railed at the government for failing to protect them.

Punjab province chief minister Shahbaz Sharif declared a day of mourning after Monday’s blast, believed to be targeting police managing a busy protest at rush hour on Mall Road in Lahore.

At least 13 people were killed, emergency official Ahmad Raza said. The toll included six police officers, while more than 80 were injured.

Earlier yesterday, he had put the death toll at 15, but said later that was a clerical error.

The toll could have been higher, Raza 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.

Funerals were held yesterday for some of the victims.

The Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which has vowed to attack government installations around the country, claimed responsibility for the assault.

The attack underscored the challenges faced by Pakistan in its push to stamp out militancy, even though security dramatically improved in 2015 and last year.

Homegrown groups like the umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan retain the ability to carry out spectacular assaults, despite a military-led crackdown on extremism.

Lahore residents vented their fury at the blast site.

“They [the militants] have no link with Islam nor do they believe in any religion. The only thing they know is killing people. This is utterly an act of terrorism,” Tariq Saleem said.

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 the UK and US branded the attack cowardly in separate statements, while the EU said it was shocked and saddened by the incident.

Lahore, the country’s cultural capital, suffered one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks at Easter last year when a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomb in a park killed more than 70, including many children.

But such incidents have been rare in the city recently.

Despite the attack, the highly anticipated final of the Pakistan Super League would still be held in Lahore, officials said.

“We will stand firm, we will fight,” PSL chairman Najam Sethi said.

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