Blast at popular Pakistani shrine kills at least five people, wounds 24

People gather at the bomb blast site in Mastung on July 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019
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Blast at popular Pakistani shrine kills at least five people, wounds 24

  • The explosion happened near the female entrance of the shrine
  • A Pakistani Taliban faction claimed responsibility for the attack

LAHORE: A blast at one of Pakistan's oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least five people and wounded 24 in the eastern city of Lahore Wednesday, police said, as the country marks the fasting month of Ramadan.
Police have said they are still investigating the nature of the blast, which occurred near the entrance gate for female visitors to the 11th-century Data Darbar shrine, one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia.

Pakistani Taliban faction, Hizbul Ahrar militant group, claimed responsibility for the blast.

“This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police,” spokesman for the Hizbul Ahrar militant group Abdul Aziz Yousafzai said in a statement.

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

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 Sufi 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, but stressed that the cause of the blast remains under investigation.
Three police officials, a security guard and a civilian were killed, he added. Provincial health minister Yasmin Rashid confirmed the toll.
The blast may have been "a suicide attack" on a security vehicle, added police official Muhammad Kashif.
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 dramatic attacks.
Major urban centres 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.


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 21 May 2019
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.