Blast brings down Lahore building, kills 23 (Roundup)

May 27th, 2009 - 7:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Lahore, May 27 (IANS) Shards flew and an entire building collapsed as terror struck Pakistan’s cultural capital again Wednesday when a massive car bomb exploded in the bustling Civil Lines area, killing 23 people and injuring over 100.
The car bomb, which packed in about 100 kg of explosives, went off just outside the three-storeyed Rescue-15 Building that collapsed with the impact of the blast.

The building that housed the emergency police is located close to the provincial headquarters of Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The explosion left a five feet deep crater and caused extensive damage in the vicinity.

Two suspects were arrested and helicopters hovered over the area as rescue workers tried desperately to pull out people from the debris and troops took positions on the rooftops of the nearby buildings.

Giving details of how the terror attack began on a busy weekday morning, senior Lahore administrator Sajjad Bhutta said a car carrying several gunmen pulled up in a street between the offices of the emergency police and the ISI.

“As some people came out from that vehicle and starting firing at the ISI office, the guards from inside that building returned fire,” Bhutta told reporters, disclosing that 23 people had died.

Bhutta, who had earlier in the day said 40 people had been killed, said the car suddenly exploded even as the firing continued.

Gunshots were also heard in the area after the explosion that shattered the windowpanes of nearby buildings and destroyed many vehicles.

“The moment the blast happened, everything went dark in front of my eyes. The way the blast happened, then gunfire, it looked as if there was a battle going on,” said an eyewitness Muhammad Ali.

The blast took place on a day when Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was to be presented in the Lahore High Court close by.

“The bomb disposal squad said 100 kg of explosives has been used in car bomb attack,” The News website said. It added that a suicide jacket and a hand grenade had also been recovered from the blast site.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who is in Karachi, summoned a high-level meeting to review the security situation in the country following the deadly attack.

Zardari condemned the terror attack and said the militants were on the run due to the ongoing operations in the country’s northwest and were trying to create panic among the people through such acts of barbarism, “but they will not be allowed to succeed”.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the government was committed to rooting out terrorism and described those involved in such attacks were state enemies.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik added that the militants had been defeated in the northwest and had therefore turned towards Lahore.

“We had been forewarned of the possibility of such an attack,” he told reporters in Karachi.

The Punjab government has constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the terror attack to be headed by Additional Inspector General (investigations) Zafar Majeed.

The attack comes two months after a team of 12 terrorists ambushed and fired rocket propelled grenades at a convoy carrying Sri Lankan players to the Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on March 3. Seven players and the team’s assistant coach were injured and six Pakistani police officials, who were providing protection to the bus carrying the players, were killed in the attack that shook the entire cricketing world.

Later that month, Pakistani security forces had to storm the Manawan police training academy on the outskirts of Lahore, ending a seven-hour siege by a group of heavily armed attackers who had taken over 800 trainees hostage. Four of the attackers were killed, while three were captured alive.

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