54 killed, 200 wounded in Pak suicide attack at Wagah Border

Wagah Border: At least 54 people, including 11 women and three security personnel, were killed and nearly 200 injured when a suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb at Wagah in Pakistan on Monday, minutes after the popular flag- lowering ceremony at the main Indo-Pak land border crossing.

Officials said that it was a suicide attack and at least 54 people, including women, children and security personnel, had been killed and 200 had sustained injuries.

“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.

To a question about security arrangements, Sukhera said, “The Rangers had made stringent security measures but it was difficult to check suicide bomber”.

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

The spokesman of the splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Ahmed Marwat said the attack was a reaction to military operation Zarb-i-Azb and Waziristan operation.

Huge crowds gather every evening at the Wagah crossing, 22 kilometres from Lahore, to watch a “lowering of the flags” ceremony and witness the energetic display of military pageantry that accompanies the formal closing of the border post which soldiers from both countries have conducted for decades.

Earlier reports had said it could be a cylinder blast.

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

“We had reports that some banned outfits might target Shias, religious personalities, public processions and important buildings,” Sukhera said.

He said, “Our teams have confirmed that it was a suicide blast”. The IG said that the suicide bomber was stopped at the gate of the parade ground at the border and detonated the bomb right when people gathered near the gate.

“Up to five kilogrammes of explosive material was used in the blast,” Sukhera said.

“The bomb exploded outside a restaurant near a Pakistani paramilitary soldiers’ checkpoint at Wagah border,” he added.

“People were returning after watching the parade at Wagah border when the blast took place. Ball bearings were found at the scene,” another police official said.