• 24 injured as explosion leaves deep crater on road, damages houses and shops nearby
• IGP claims LEAs recently received 65 threat alerts
LAHORE: A powerful blast near the residence of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed here on Wednesday killed three people and injured 24 others, including a police constable.
Six-year-old Abdul Haq, his father Abdul Malik, 50, and a young passerby died in the explosion that left a four-foot-deep and eight-foot-wide crater on the road and damaged several houses and shops nearby.
Without naming the JuD chief, the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) said the blast occurred near the residence of a high-value target in Johar Town where a picket manned by armed police personnel had been set up.
Citing initial investigations, a senior police official told Dawn on condition of anonymity that about 15 kilograms of explosives had been planted in a car that was stolen from Gujranwala and parked near the residence of Hafiz Saeed in Board of Revenue Housing Society, Johar Town. His residence remained safe, but many other houses and shops falling in 100 square feet radius of the blast site were damaged.
The JuD chief is facing imprisonment in multiple cases. Owned by Hafizabad-resident Shakeel Ahmad, the car bearing registration number LEB-9928 had been snatched by three criminals in Gujranwala on Nov 29, 2010 when his driver was going to drop his friend in the city.
The car was recovered by the Lahore Anti-Vehicle Lifting Squad (AVLS) from Khanewal district the next year and handed over to its owner through court. The AVLS, however, did not inform the Gujranwala police about the recovery of the car, the official said.
Shakeel Ahmad then sold the car, which was later sold multiple times, he said, adding that further investigations were under way to trace the other owners.
The official maintained that it was yet to be ascertained if the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED). The IEDs are triggered by various means, including remote control, he said, adding that these devices have been used in many terrorist activities in the country.
He said law enforcement agencies (LEAs) were on the lookout for the suspect who left the explosives-laden car at the blast spot and disappeared.
“The enemies of the country seem to have sent a message that it could have been more destructive, and the authorities are trying to find the objective behind this terrorist activity and the message,” the police official added.
He said the LEAs rushed to the site within no time and deployed a large police contingent in and around the residence of the JuD chief. Teams of Rescue 1122, Bomb Disposal Squad, forensic and police experts and Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials launched a rescue operation at the site.
Besides the heavy police deployment, extensive patrolling was ordered in the vicinity and several pickets were set up to cordon off the area.
Eyewitnesses said the blast was so powerful that the residents in the street rushed for shelter, while those indoors locked themselves up fearing an armed terrorist attack.
Javed, who runs a business in a market near the blast site, said he was dealing with some clients when he heard a deafening explosion. A few seconds later, he said, he saw some people injured and the boundary walls of nearby houses covered with dust and blood stains.
“I saw a car completely destroyed and a rickshaw up in flames, besides a deep crater on the road,” he added.
An employee of a motorcycle workshop nearby, who was also among the injured, said he was using his mobile phone when he heard the blast. As he came out of his workplace, he saw several injured people lying on the road.
“I also saw a minor boy in critical condition, three women and a young man unconscious on the road near the blast site,” he said, adding that he also saw a man fighting for his life with both legs critically wounded.
Meanwhile, footage on multiple TV channels also showed visible damage to the nearby houses with cracked walls and shattered windows.
The IGP, capital city police officer, deputy inspector general (operations) and other senior officers visited the blast site.
In reply to a question by the media, IGP Inam Ghani claimed that the LEAs had recently received nearly 65 threat alerts. “These attacks are usually carried out by countries that want to harm Pakistan and its progress,” he said, adding that recently the CTD had carried out multiple intelligence-based operations and arrested several terrorists.
Jinnah Hospital’s Medical Superintendent Dr Yahya Sultan told Dawn that six of the injured people brought to the hospital were in critical condition, including a police constable. He confirmed that three critically injured people, including a minor boy and his father, had died.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2021