LAHORE: Law enforcement agencies have identified a new militant network, an offshoot of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as the group responsible for Monday’s attack on Lahore’s Ferozepur Road.

The suicide attack near the Arfa Karim IT Tower was the first deadly assault by the Taliban Special Group (TSG), which comprised highly trained suicide attackers (fidayeen commandos), a senior police officer told Dawn on Tuesday.

Earlier attacks in the provincial capital, including the one on The Mall, had been claimed by Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), a splinter group of the TTP based in Afghanistan, he said. The United States had placed the JuA on its list of specially designated global terrorists last year for staging multiple attacks targeting civilians, religious minorities, military personnel and law enforcement agencies.

The police officer said the emergence of the TSG had raised concerns among law enforcement agencies, who were viewing it as an emerging new challenge. The TSG commandos have been trained to carry out massive and deadly attacks, he said.

Contrary to earlier reports, the police officer said preliminary investigation revealed that the attack had not been carried out using a motorcycle. Law enforcement agencies have examined registration documents of the 10 motorcycles at the site of the attack and learned that they had all belonged to the victims, he stressed. It was more likely that the suicide bomber was brought to the site of the attack by one or more facilitators on a rickshaw or another vehicle, he said.

The identity of the facilitator(s) would be hard to establish considering that the only CCTV camera installed near the site was not functional at the time of the attack. However, the dismembered remains of the suicide attacker had been sent for forensic analysis, the police officer said.

Monday’s attack claimed 26 lives, including nine policemen, and left 54 others injured. No more casualties were reported on Tuesday while 11 of the injured were discharged from hospitals after receiving treatment.

Jinnah Hospital’s Medical Superintendent Dr Sohail Saqlain told Dawn that post-mortem of 23 victims had been conducted. The post-mortem examination of the remaining three victims had not been carried out because their identity was yet to be established.

According to the information obtained from public hospitals, nine of the 54 injured were being treated for major injuries. Most victims had been brought to hospitals with multiple fractures, Dr Saqlain said. The blades, spring and other sharp, jagged objects used in the explosive material had critically damaged the soft tissues of most victims, he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced financial assistance of Rs2 million for the families of those who had lost their lives in the attack.

Those seriously injured in the blast will be given Rs1m, while those with minor injuries will be given Rs300,000 each.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2017

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