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ISLAMABAD: At least 41 people were killed and nearly 175 injured in the suicide bomb attack on the Data Darbar complex in Lahore on Thursday night. The bombings at the shrine of the Persian Sufi saint Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri are being seen as not just an attack on a crowded place but an assault on the tolerant Sufi tradition.
The bombers — one of whom has been identified as a local by his brothers — struck close to midnight on Thursday, the main time of congregation at the shrine. On Thursdays, devotees queue up through the night in the hope of blessings of the Sufi saint revered as the guardian of Pakistan's cultural capital.
The bombers detonated their suicide jackets separately; killing many on the spot and seriously injuring others. Since the gathering was nearly 3,000 strong, the explosions triggered a commotion and many were injured in the stampede that ensued.
The first blast took place in the basement and the second in front of the shrine's main building. Though security had been increased recently and the shrine had made its own arrangements to complement the security provided by the Punjab government, the bombers managed to penetrate with suicide jackets bearing 10 kg explosives each.
Eyewitnesses claimed the police had described the first blast as a cracker burst. On the other hand, the Data Darbar administration called it an explosion in the generator and asked devotees to continue with their prayers.
Lahore's hospitals were hard-pressed to deal with the scale of injuries and appeals for blood donation were made as the injured were being wheeled in. Police claimed to have recovered the heads of the bombers and one of them was identified on Friday as Usman, a young local who had gone missing some months ago. He is said to have been drawn to a religious outfit.
Till late Friday night, no organisation had claimed responsibility for the attack. In fact, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistan wing of the Taliban) has denied any involvement according to AFP. “We are not responsible for these attacks. This is a conspiracy by foreign secret agencies. You know we do not attack public places,” a TTP spokesman said.
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