Terror strikes Pakistan again, 20 killed in Lahore


Lahore : A powerful blast ripped through the crowded high court area near Mall Road here Thursday, killing up to 20 people and injuring scores of people, in Pakistan’s second major terror attack in less than two weeks.

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There was panic in this cultural capital of the country as the deafening blast, which occurred around 11.40 a.m., shook the Lahore High Court and Supreme Court Registry buildings.

People could be seen lying motionless on the street; mangled cars and blood lay spattered around the blast site.

There was no fix on the number of people killed, with some police officials confirming 12 dead and eyewitnesses saying that about 20 were dead. Most of the killed were policemen, several of who were seen lying dead and injured close to the high court wall.

The suicide bomber set off the device when policemen asked him to stop his motorcycle outside the high court building, police sources said.

“The attacker was carrying the bomb in a bag on a motorbike, and when stopped by a policeman he pushed some button in the bag and bomb went off,” said an officer.

“Ten policemen and one civilian are confirmed dead and we have removed their bodies to hospitals,” senior police officer Iqbal Malik told reporters. He said some of the injured were in critical condition.

Malik said the policemen usually were present there for routine duty. But “today their number was higher because of the lawyers’ rally”.

Confirming that it was a suicide attack, he said the police had found the suspected suicide bomber’s head from the blast site where human parts were seen scattered.

He said that about 25-30 policemen were standing at the GPO Square near the High Court and Supreme Court buildings to guard the lawyers’ rally.

“We think the bomb was planted to disrupt the rally and kill the protestors but it went off before it could start,” Hamid Sultan, a lawyer who was in the rally, told journalists.

Calling the Feb 18 elections a farce, lawyers all over the country had Thursday resumed their protests against President Pervez Musharraf and to demand independence of the judiciary.

They are demanding restoration of the sacked Supreme Court and high court judges who refused allegiance to Musharraf and were sacked Nov 3 when the president imposed emergency in the country.

The emergency was lifted Dec 16 but the judges were not restored.

The blast comes less than two weeks after the Dec 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. The attack sparked countrywide violence in which more than 40 people have died so far.

According to the interior ministry, more than 800 people were killed in attacks, mainly suicide bombings targeting security forces, in Pakistan last year.