LAHORE: A locally-manufactured explosive device concealed in a bag went off on platform 2 of the City Railway Station here on Tuesday evening, killing two people, including a railway police employee, and injuring 63 others.
Witnesses said the blast took place at around 6.40pm when passengers of Awami Express from Karachi were leaving the station and some others were waiting for the Night Coach to depart for Karachi.
The loud explosion damaged the waiting lounge for Business Express and shattered windowpanes of nearby shops and railway offices. The lounge was littered with shards and broken furniture with its windows blown away.
Railway authorities beefed up security at all major stations across the country. Security officials said the Business Express was not the target as it had left the station for Karachi at 3.30pm, but the explosive went off exactly outside its waiting lounge.
They said initial investigation showed that the explosion was neither timed nor remote-controlled but caused by a ‘touch’ device.
Witnesses said most of the victims, 14 women and eight children among them, suffered wounds from ball bearings and shards.
They were taken to Mayo, Sir Gang Ram and Services hospitals by Rescue 1122 and Edhi ambulances.Porter Mohammad Boota, 50, of Amar Sidhu, and railway police head-constable Idrees, also 50, of Narowal, died.
According to police, the porter was holding the bag which exploded, but some witnesses said it was lying on the platform.
“I was putting the luggage of a passenger on a trolley when the huge blast shook us and we fell on the ground and I was hit by shells,” 25-year-old Mohammad Asif, a coolie, said.
“The explosion left windowpanes of Awami Express shattered. The train had arrived at platform 2 instead of 5 because of being late,” he told Dawn in Mayo Hospital.
Faisal Mehmood of Karachi, who suffered injuries along with his five-year-old son Noman, two brothers and two women of the family, said they were waiting for the Night Coach at the platform, a few feet away from where the explosion took place. “People ran in all directions leaving their luggage and carrying children.”
Noman, who suffered two wounds, appeared to be in shock.
Mohammad Mushtaq, who owns a stall at platform 4, said: “Some ball bearings also fell into my stall and we ran out as the blast triggered panic among people.”
A large number of people gathered in the hospitals after the incident.
Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Ali Aamir Malik said the explosives were apparently being carried by the porter when they went off and severed his legs and one arm.
He said some passengers who were close to the place had been critically injured.
The DIG said it appeared that a terrorist posing as a passenger might have given the bag to the porter to carry.
He said Awami Express had arrived 10 minutes before the explosion.
A large number of ball bearings had been found at the place, the official said.
He said the explosion didn’t have much impact on the ground possibly because the explosives were in porter’s hand.
Authorities said 17 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at the station were not functioning because the company maintaining them had suspended the service two months ago for non-payment of dues.
A railway police official said over two dozen personnel maintained security at the station round the clock.
The railway police registered a case under Sections 302 and 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code, Anti-Terrorism Act and Explosives Act.
Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: An organisation calling itself Lashkar-i-Balochistan claimed responsibility for the bomb blast, saying it was to avenge the killing of Baloch women and children in Karachi, dumping of bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch youths, burning of a woman in Dera Bugti and torture on innocent people in the province.
The group’s spokesman Lavong Khan Baloch told reporters by phone that they did not want to target common citizens but the state machinery had forced them to commit such acts by attacking innocent people in Karachi and Balochistan.
He warned that Rawalpindi and Islamabad would be the next targets of his group if the killings of Baloch people and atrocities against them were not stopped.
Some observers found it difficult to accept the credibility of the claim made by the so far unheard of organisation and said it might have been a fictitious call made either to mislead the investigators or to pit the people of Punjab against Baloch nationalists.