Twin suicide attacks kill 45 in Lahore

LAHORE: Twin suicide attacks seconds apart targeted the

Pakistani military today, killing 45 people in the second attack to hit security forces in the country’s cultural capital this week.

The bombers walked up to Pakistani army vehicles in the densely populated R A Bazaar area of Lahore, blowing themselves up as people sat down to eat before the main Muslim weekly prayers were to begin, a senior official said.

Lahore, a city of eight million near Pakistan’s border with India, has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked attacks in a nationwide bombing campaign that has killed more than 3,000 people in three years.

The bombers targeted the cantonment of Lahore, an area home to army officials and military installations, as well as hospitals and schools run by the military. The area includes civilian homes, shops and restaurants.

Mohammad Nadeem, a young man in his 20s whose traditional white shalwar khamis was stained with blood down the front, told AFP he was saying prayers in the mosque when he heard the first blast and rushed out. “I saw people crying and running in different directions. They were panicked,” he said.

“The second blast took place very near a military vehicle. I sensed real danger and started running.

“There were scenes of destruction in nearby restaurants and shops. There were broken chairs and tables and other items lying everywhere on the ground.”

The army cordoned off the tree-lined street with security officials saying at least five soldiers were among those killed when the twin blasts shattered windows and sent debris flying from nearby buildings.

“Thirty-nine people were killed and 95 wounded in the attacks,” Tariq Saleem Dogar, the Punjab provincial police chief, told reporters on live TV.

“We have collected concrete technical evidence, which will help identify the attackers,” he added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Pakistan’s mainstream Taliban faction claimed a suicide attack Monday that destroyed offices used to interrogate militant suspects, killing 15 people, and pledged further attacks.

Violence in Pakistan is concentrated largely in the lawless northwest border area with Afghanistan, but analysts have warned that extremism is taking a hold in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and politically important province.