Bomb blast at Sufi Shrine in Lahore

A15-year-old boy conducted the suicide attack on Wednesday killing 10 people, including five elite police force personnel outside the famous 11th century Sufi shrine of Data Darbar in Lahore. At least 25 others were also injured.The teenage boy came out of a fruit shop, crossed the road, came close to a parked police van and then exploded his suicide vest before the elite force personal could even move. It was quite evident that police were the clear target and not the Shrine or the devotees visiting it. The incident also gives a harsh reminder that big cities like Lahore are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks despite massive operation against militants and banned outfits by the Pakistan security forces.

State TV showed pictures of badly-damaged patrol cars. "It was an attack on police that left several dead and dozens of policemen and civilians injured. The target was police," said Syed Mubashir Hussain, a spokesman for the Lahore police.

Muhammad Farooq, a spokesman for the city's rescue services, said a rescue operation "is under way and we have moved 15 people to hospital." 

Police official Muhammad Kashif said the bombing "may have been a suicide attack."

"This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police," said Abdul Aziz Yousafzai, spokesman for the Hizbul Ahrar militant group, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban. Authorities have stepped up the security measures since the country's worst terrorist attack killed more than 150 people at a school in Peshawar in 2014. However, extremist groups are still able to conduct deadly attacks. Lahore has witnessed several attacks in recent years, including a bomb targeting Christians celebrating Easter in 2016. More than 70 people were killed.

Built in the 11th century, the Data Darbar is the burial site of the saint Ali Hajveri and is one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the site each spring on the anniversary of the saint's death. It was hit by a suicide attack in 2010 that left over 40 people dead. Since then, it has had a heavy security presence.

The blast  which a faction of the terrorist group Pakistani Taliban 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.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 terrorist attacks.Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, have frequently been the target of bloody attacks in Pakistan by Islamist terrorists including the Islamic State group who consider Sufi beliefs and rituals at the graves of Muslim saints as heresy.

The incident also showed the complacency by the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan as they tend to go easy once the security situation comes under control for some time despite the fact that these terrorist ‘sleeping cells’ have surprised them on number of occasion in the past.The issue of terrorism cannot be solved only by cracking down on proscribed outfits heads and main members, a continuous combing operation is required at the grassroots level to uproot the problem of militancy. The government should also look at the vulnerably section of society including jobless youth and students who can easily be cultivated by the terrorist groups for their subversive activities.

After the blast, all regional police officers and city police officers have been directed to examine security arrangements in their respective areas and remain alert during the month of Ramadan. Police need to take pro-active measures instead of reacting to the situation to avoid such incidents.

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