Suicide Blast Kills At Least 10 At Popular Shrine

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb blast outside a Sufi shrine in Lahore on May 8, 2019.  ARIF ALI / AFP

 

A suicide blast at one of Pakistan’s oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people and wounded 24 in the eastern city of Lahore Wednesday, police said, in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

The blast — which a faction of the militant group claimed by email — occurred near the entrance gate for female visitors to the 11th-century Data Darbar shrine, one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia, as the country marks the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Wreckage of vehicles littered the pavement near the shrine as first responders rushed to the scene and armed security forces fanned out in the area.

“As we crossed the road a blast took place in front of us,” witness Ritat Shahid told AFP.

She described seeing pieces of flesh fall in front of her, and added that the blast “sounded so big that we felt like our ears will burst”.

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The emergency room at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore was crowded with the wounded, and people searching for loved ones, an AFP reporter saw.

Among them was Azra Bibi, whose son Muhammad Shahid cares for visitors’ shoes — which must be removed before entering. He has been missing since the blast, she said.

“They are not Muslims,” she told AFP, referring to the attackers. “They even targeted worshippers.”

The shrine has long been home to colourful Sufi festivals and a prime destination for the country’s myriad Muslim sects, making it a soft target for militant attacks.

It has been targeted previously, in a 2010 suicide attack which killed more than 40 people.

Since then the area has been increasingly hemmed in by heavy security, with visitors forced to pass through several layers of screening before they can enter the complex.

Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, have frequently been the target of bloody attacks in Pakistan by Islamist militants — including the Islamic State group — who consider their beliefs, and rituals at the graves of Muslim saints, as heresy.

Senior police official Muhammad Ashfaq told a press conference that the security personnel at the shrine were targeted.

Three police officials, two security guards and five civilians including a child were among the dead, Punjab province chief minister Usman Buzdar said.

 Busy shrine 

Pakistan’s push against extremism was stepped up after the country’s deadliest-ever attack, an assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 that left more than 150 people dead — mostly children.

Since then, security has dramatically improved, but militants retain the ability to carry out major attacks.

Major urban centers such as Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and the provincial capital of its wealthiest province, Punjab, are not immune.

An attack in the city in March last year left nine people dead, while a major blast targeting Christians celebrating Easter in a park in 2016 killed more than 70 people.

Critics have long argued the military and government crackdown has not addressed the root causes of extremism in Pakistan, where hardline Muslim groups often target religious minorities.

The Data Darbar complex contains the shrine of Saint Syed Ali bin Osman Al-Hajvery, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Originally from Afghanistan, he was one of the most popular Sufi preachers on the subcontinent.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine each spring to mark his death anniversary, while it is also crowded weekly with worshippers listening to qawwali, a traditional form of Islamic devotional music.

AFP

At Least 37 Killed As Suicide Attacker Hits Kabul School

Afghan volunteers carry an injured youth on a stretcher to a hospital following a suicide attack in Kabul on August 15, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

 

At least 37 people, the majority of them students, were killed when a suicide blast ripped through a school in a Shiite area of Kabul on Wednesday, officials said, the latest assault on Afghanistan’s war-weary capital.

Around a dozen, ambulances rushed to the Mawoud education centre in the western part of the city, where students and relatives described pulling bloodied victims from the rubble of a classroom that had been crowded with teenagers preparing to go to university.

“At around 4 pm this afternoon, a suicide attacker who had strapped explosives to his body detonated himself inside the Mawoud education centre,” police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said.

“In the explosion 37 people were killed, more than 40 injured,” he said, adding that the “absolute majority” of them had been students.

He warned the toll could rise. Other officials have put it at as high as 48 people killed, with scores more injured.

It was not clear how many students were at the centre at the time of the attack.

One witness, another student named Ali Ahmad, said as many as 100 students may have been inside when the bomber struck, but officials have not yet confirmed the figure.

“My brother has been injured, possibly killed, because he wasn’t breathing when I took his bloodied body out of the bloody, burning classroom,” one man, who gave his name as Assadullah, said.

He had been nearby when he heard the blast, and ran to the centre, he told AFP.

His brother, Nusratullah, was around 17 years old, he said, sobbing over the phone.

“He was a smart and energetic boy, top of his class,” Assadullah said. “Now… I am not sure he will survive.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was swiftly condemned by President Ashraf Ghani in a statement.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group (IS) have carried out devastating, high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months, but the Taliban quickly denied they were involved.

Grinding conflict

The assault underscores the price that ordinary Afghans have paid in the grinding conflict as the country reels from a recent upsurge in militant violence, including a massive, days-long Taliban onslaught on the eastern city of Ghazni.

Afghan forces appeared to have finally pushed Taliban fighters from the strategic provincial capital on Wednesday, as shopkeepers and residents warily returned to the streets after days of intense ground fighting and US airstrikes.

Security forces were on patrol and no militants were in sight in the centre of the shattered city, with fighting which began late Thursday seeming to have finally ceased.

But analysts said the Taliban had scored a military and psychological victory against Kabul in Ghazni, proving they have the strength to strike a strategically vital city near the capital at will and remain entrenched there for days.

The fall of a northern base this week, with at least 17 soldiers killed, was a further blow to Afghan security forces, already demoralised by staggering casualties.

“What we’ve seen over the last few days is a microcosm of the war in Afghanistan — overmatched Afghan troops, emboldened Taliban fighters, and American forces that eventually come in to help bail the Afghans out,” analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington told AFP.

“What’s crystal clear is that nearly four years after the Afghan security forces took over the war efforts, they’re still woefully unprepared for the task — despite very real improvements in capacities in recent years.”

That gives the government a strong incentive to build on recent, tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start peace negotiations are starting to bear fruit, he said.

But for the insurgents, Ghazni, in particular, was being seen as a show of strength. “For the insurgents, the thinking is, ‘why quit when we’re ahead’?” Kugelman said.

At least 100 security forces were killed in the fight for Ghazni, officials have said, with unconfirmed fears that at least as many civilians died.

The surge in violence comes weeks after Afghans marked an unprecedented country-wide ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces in June, giving some relief to war-weary civilians.

It also comes as US and Afghan forces intensify ground and air offensives against the Islamic State (IS), and the Taliban step up their turf war with the group.

The Taliban have not claimed a major assault in Kabul for weeks.

IS, however, has carried out multiple attacks in the eastern city of Jalalabad and the capital in recent months and has increasingly targeted the Shiite minority.

Earlier this month, IS claimed responsibility for twin blasts at a mosque in the eastern city of Gardez that killed at least 35 people.

AFP

Death Toll In Pakistan Suicide Blast Rises To 128

Pakistani men react in the back of a pick-up truck as the victim of the bomb blast is brought to a hospital in Quetta on July 13, 2018. BANARAS KHAN / AFP

 

A suicide bomber targeting a political rally in southwest Pakistan Friday killed 128 people, officials told AFP, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.

The blast — which was claimed by the Islamic State group — ripped through the crowd in the town of Mastung near the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta.

It was the latest in a string of attacks that have spurred fears of violence ahead of nationwide polls on July 25 and underscored the fragility of Pakistan’s dramatic gains in security.

“The death toll has risen to 128,” Balochistan home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told AFP. A senior provincial government official also confirmed the figure, adding that 150 others were injured.

Emergency workers shuttled victims to nearby vehicles from the bombed-out compound as bystanders sobbed in the darkness due to the lack of electricity in the impoverished area.

Victims in blood-smeared clothes were taken to hospitals in Mastung and nearby Quetta, where they were greeted by tense crowds of mourners, an AFP reporter said. The deceased could be seen covered in shrouds.

“Human remains and red bloody pieces of flesh were littered everywhere in the compound. Injured people were crying in pain and fear,” said local journalist Attah Ullah.

According to senior provincial official Saeed Jamali, the bomber detonated in the middle of a compound where a political meeting was taking place. Another senior official, Qaim Lashari, also confirmed it was a suicide blast.

The explosion killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with the newly formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), provincial home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told AFP.

“Mir Siraj Raisani succumbed to wounds while he was being shifted to Quetta,” he added. Raisani was the younger brother of former provincial chief minister Mir Aslam Raisani.

The attack was the most lethal since Taliban militants assaulted a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014, killing over 150 people, mostly children, and one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s long struggle with militancy.

It came hours after four people were killed and 39 injured when a bomb hidden inside a motorcycle detonated near a Pakistani politician’s convoy in Bannu on Friday, near the border with Afghanistan.

The politician — Akram Khan Durrani, a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party — survived, police said. No group has yet claimed responsibility for that attack.

On Tuesday, a bomb claimed by the Pakistani Taliban targeted a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in the city of Peshawar.

Local ANP leader Haroon Bilour was among the 22 killed. Thousands flocked to his funeral the next day.

Pakistani Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel gather, following the bomb blast.
Photo: BANARAS KHAN / AFP

‘Duty to protect’

The Islamic State group has a muted presence in Pakistan but has carried out brutal attacks there in the past, including the blast at a Sufi shrine in February last year which killed nearly 90 people.

Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Pakistan.

But security across the country has dramatically improved since government and military operations cleared large swathes of territory near the Afghan border in recent years.

Analysts warn, however, that Pakistan has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism, and militants retain the ability to carry out attacks.

The military has warned of security threats in the run-up to the tense election on July 25 and said it will deploy more than 370,000 soldiers on polling day.

Following the series of attacks this week, activists called for Pakistani authorities to remain vigilant to protect candidates during the final days of the campaign season.

“The Pakistani authorities have a duty to protect the rights of all Pakistanis during this election period — their physical security and their ability to express their political views freely, regardless of which party they belong to,” said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International.

Last month, a US air strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah, in neighbouring Afghanistan in what the Pakistani army called a “positive development” that also sparked fears of reprisals.

AFP

[UPDATED] Suicide Blast Kills 85 At Pakistan Election Rally

Suicide Blast Kills 85 At Pakistan Election Rally
A victim of the bomb blast that left 85 dead is brought to a hospital in Quetta on July 13, 2018, following an attack at an election rally. Photo: BANARAS KHAN / AFP

 

A suicide bomber targeting a political rally in southwest Pakistan Friday killed 85 people, an official said, the deadliest in a string of attacks on campaign events that have raised security fears ahead of nationwide polls.

The blast — which was claimed by the Islamic State group — ripped through the crowd in the town of Mastung near the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta, and was the deadliest in Pakistan in more than a year.

It came hours after another bomb killed at least four people at a campaign rally in Bannu in the country’s northwest. A third bomb killed 22 people at another rally in Peshawar on Tuesday.

The attacks underscored the fragility of Pakistan’s dramatic gains in security after years of steady improvement and widespread optimism that things had turned a corner.

“The death toll has risen to 85,” Balochistan health minister Faiz Kakar told AFP, adding that were more than 100 wounded.

According to senior provincial official Saeed Jamali, the bomber detonated in the middle of a compound where a political meeting was taking place. Another senior official, Qaim Lashari, also confirmed it was a suicide blast.

Emergency workers shuttled victims to nearby vehicles from the bombed-out compound as bystanders sobbed in the darkness due to the lack of electricity in the impoverished area.

Victims in blood-smeared clothes were taken to hospitals in Mastung and nearby Quetta, where they were greeted by tense crowds of mourners, an AFP reporter said. The deceased could be seen covered in shrouds.

Suicide Blast Kills 85 At Pakistan Election Rally
Pakistani men react in the back of a pick-up truck as the victim of the bomb blast is brought to a hospital in Quetta on July 13, 2018. BANARAS KHAN / AFP

 

The explosion killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with the newly formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), provincial home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told AFP.

“Mir Siraj Raisani succumbed to wounds while he was being shifted to Quetta,” he added. Raisani was the younger brother of former provincial chief minister Mir Aslam Raisani.

The attack came hours after four people were killed and 39 injured when a bomb hidden inside a motorcycle detonated near a Pakistani politician’s convoy in Bannu on Friday, near border with Afghanistan.

The politician — Akram Khan Durrani, a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party — survived, police said. No group has yet claimed responsibility for that attack.

On Tuesday, a bomb claimed by the Pakistani Taliban targeted a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in the city of Peshawar.

Local ANP leader Haroon Bilour was among the 22 killed. Thousands flocked to his funeral the next day.

‘Duty to protect’

Pakistani Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel gather following the bomb blast at the election rally. Photo: BANARAS KHAN / AFP

 

The Islamic State group has a muted presence in Pakistan but has carried out brutal attacks there in the past, including the blast at a Sufi shrine in February last year which killed nearly 90 people.

Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Pakistan.

But security across the country has dramatically improved since government and military operations cleared large swathes of territory near the Afghan border in recent years.

Analysts warn, however, that Pakistan has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism, and militants retain the ability to carry out attacks.

The military has warned of security threats in the run-up to the tense election on July 25, and said it will deploy more than 370,000 soldiers on polling day.

Following the series of attacks this week, activists called for Pakistani authorities to remain vigilant to protect candidates during the final days of the campaign season.

“The Pakistani authorities have a duty to protect the rights of all Pakistanis during this election period — their physical security and their ability to express their political views freely, regardless of which party they belong to,” said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International.

Last month, a US air strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah, in neighbouring Afghanistan in what the Pakistani army called a “positive development” that also sparked fears of reprisals.

AFP

14 Killed, 24 Injured In Borno Suicide Attack

Boko Haram Ambushes Oil Workers, Abducts Academics In Borno

A suicide bomber has killed 14 people and injured 24 others in an attack believed to be targetted at internally displaced persons in Dikwa, Borno State.

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency says it has evacuated 14 corpses and 24 injured people from the scene of the attack, which occurred late on Friday.

It was gathered that the suicide bomber infiltrated a housing estate in Dikwa accommodating returning Internally Displaced Persons and denotated explosives.

According to the Head of the Rapid Response Team of the State Emergency Management Agency, Bello Dambatta, a female suicide bomber sneaked into a building close to the estate around 8:30 pm and detonated the explosives strapped to her.

“We have so far evacuated 38 victims comprising, fourteen deaths and 24 injured persons presently receiving treatment at the State Specialist Hospital Maiduguri,” Dambatta said.

There are no camps in Dikwa town as almost all returnees are in homes.
The Media Coordinator of the Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Clement Nwachukwu, confirmed the attack when contacted by Channels Television via a phone call.

Nwachukwu says troops have since been mobilised to the area.

“We are doing all we can to provide adequate security through our continuing operations but we urge the public to be more security conscious and know who their neighbours are,” Nwachukwu stated.

The attack occurred three days after Boko Haram ambushed oil workers and staff of the University of Maiduguri, abducting some of them and killing several others.

About 30 civilians and more than 10 soldiers were reportedly killed in the ambush.

On Friday, a video of three people who identified themselves as employees of the University of Maiduguri and said they were part of those abducted in the ambush was released by Boko Haram.

In the video, the men appealed to the Federal Government to meet the demands of Boko Haram (the Abu Musab al-Barnawi faction) and secure their freedom.

Abducted UNIMAID Workers Beg FG To Meet Boko Haram’s Demands

They also called on the government to stop the ‘excessive use of force’ against the terrorists as it is not the answer.

Aminu Tambuwal condemns Bauchi Church blast

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has condemned the suicide attack which targeted the St. John’s Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi, saying the attack was ignoble, wicked and horrendous.

In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal urged the security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of the violent act are brought to justice.

He said the gains recorded by the security agencies in their battle against terror in the country in recent weeks should be built upon in order to protect the citizens at all times.

While condoling with the victims of the blast, Tambuwal urged Nigerians to be more prayerful and to provide useful information that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators and their sponsors, if any.