CTD officials collect evidence from the blast site near Chauburji. — White Star
CTD officials collect evidence from the blast site near Chauburji. — White Star

LAHORE: Fourteen people were injured when a bomb exploded in a stationary rickshaw near Chauburji on Multan Road on Friday.

The incident that police dubbed a terrorist activity was held a day after the facilitator in Data Darbar’s suicide bombing which took place earlier this year, was sentenced to death by the Anti-Terrorism Court.

The proscribed Hizbul Ahrar (HuA), a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (TTP-JA), claimed responsibility for Friday’s blast. The group had carried out a suicide blast outside Data Darbar in May last that claimed lives of more than a dozen people including personnel of the Elite Force.

A senior official told Dawn that the blast occurred in a rickshaw soon after its driver parked it alongside Multan Road near Chauburji in search of a washroom to answer the call of nature. Fourteen passersby suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospitals nearby by the Rescue 1122 ambulances, he said.

Quoting initial inquiry, the official said the driver, Ramzan, had picked up a passenger from Sherakot to drop him at Chauburji. The suspect who was carrying the shopping bag got down in a hurry almost a kilometre short of his destination and disappeared after paying the fare.

Hizbul Ahrar’s offshoot claims responsibility for the blast

Officials of the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) believe the suspect wanted to detonate the device close to a place at Chauburji during Friday prayer. It’s yet to be ascertained why he left the explosive material in the rickshaw before disappearing, he said.

Initially, he said, police were alerted through information about a cylinder blast and the Rescue 1122 got a call about a transformer blast. Preliminary investigation confirmed that it was an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) dropped by an unidentified passenger in the rickshaw, he said.

A team of the Rescue 1122 said they provided first-aid to two of the injured on the spot and took others to the hospitals nearby for treatment of minor injuries.

A spokesperson for the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said the blast occurred in a rickshaw near Chauburji around 11:25am. According to the crime scene details, he said, 14 passersby suffered minor injuries when they were going pass the rickshaw.

The driver claimed he didn’t notice that the passenger had left the shopping bag in his vehicle before getting down. No sooner had he parked it alongside Multan Road than he heard a deafening sound of blast, the CTD spokesperson quoted him as having said.

“According to the Bomb Disposal Squad and PFSA staff’s initial assessment, it can be an IED the weight and nature of which will be determined after analysis,” he said.

Aleem, one of the injured, said he was on his motorcycle and a powerful blast ripped through a rickshaw he was close to and lost his control. The motorcycle, he said, collided with another two-wheeler and he suffered bruises on his legs. He later found out that the rickshaw was reduced to skeleton.

“I was standing at the stop to cross the road when a blast shook the ground,” said Asim Ali who also suffered injuries. It seemed a hard object hit his chest and he fell on the road. The next moment, he said, he found more people on the ground and many others running for shelter in panic.

DIG Investigation Inam Waheed told the media that the personnel of the LEAs collected ball-bearings from the crime scene and the explosive material was estimated to be three to five kilograms. It would be premature to say anything about the target of the suspected terrorist, he said.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2019