Security officials and rescuers gather at the Jamia Naeemia madrassa, an Islamic seminary and mosque, after a suicide bomb attack in Lahore. — AFP

LAHORE Allama Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, a renowned religious scholar of the country and principal of the Jamia Naeemia, was killed, in what police believe was a targeted suicide attack at his seminary's office in Garhi Shaho on Friday.

His close aide, Maulana Khalilur Rehman, Abdul Rehman, an ex-student and a journalist, and two students were also killed while five others suffered injuries in the attack which destroyed furniture and religious books lying in the single room office and smashed all the windowpanes of madrassa-cum-mosque where over 1,000 students are receiving religious education.

A series of protests broke out outside Jamia Naeemia and other parts of the city following the attack on Mr Naeemi, who was the son of the ex-chairman of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and founder of Jamia Naeemia, Mufti Mohammad Husain Naeemi.

Capital City Police Officer Pervez Rathore said Dr Sarfraz had supported military action against Taliban militants and also issued a decree calling suicide attacks 'Haram' in Islam.

He told Dawn that Mr Naeemi had also arranged an Anti-Taliban seminar in his madrassa two weeks ago.

Senior Superintendent of Police (operations) Chaudhry Shafeeq believed Mr Naeemi was targeted by a suicide bomber, saying Mr Naeemi, however, did not inform the police about any immediate life threat to him.

'We had asked him many times for the security but he did not accept it,' he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for militant leader Baitullah Mehsuds Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack on Allama Naeemi as well as the attack on a mosque in Nowshera and Tuesdays bombing of Peshawars Pearl Continental hotel that killed nine people.

Anyone who will oppose us to please the Americans will face the same fate, Maulvi Omar told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The blast at Jamia Naeemia, which was carried out by a suicide bomber with approximately 12 kg explosives, shook students and staff present in the madrassa and residents of adjacent localities.

All adjacent markets and shops were closed following the incident and the police barricaded all roads leading to the Jamia Naeemia.

Some rangers also patrolled the spot.

The angry mob smashed in the windowpanes of the Alahsaan Welfare Trust ambulance.

Ambulances of Rescue 1122 and Edhi rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to Mayo, Sir Ganga Ram Services and Jinnah Hospital.

Mr Naeemi, after Friday prayer, was sitting in his room to see visitors when a young man, thought to be in his 20s, entered from the main gate, turned left and detonated an explosive device after entering Mr Naeemi's office, witnesses said.

Most of the people had left the madrassa cum mosque after Friday prayers, and only students were present in their rooms and in other premises when the blast took place.

'I had just started lunch after Friday prayer when an explosion took place and I initially thought that some structure had collapsed. I along other fellows came downstairs and saw smoke arising from the office of Mr Naeemi and screams,' a student, who was in his room situated on the first floor, told Dawn.

He said he, along with others found Mr Naeemi with multiple injuries and shifted him to the nearby Railway Cairen Hospital.

Police rounded up a few students and took them to an unidentified location for interrogation.

Mohammad Ali Naqashbandi of Jamia Naeemia complained to the police took three students including Wajahat, son of Samiullah.

He said it had become police practice to pick up innocent people soon after any terrorist act in the name of security but not to act on intelligence in a timely manner.

A police official, however, said some people were detained who were found making videos of the spot.

Meanwhile, the police seized the complete face and legs of the alleged suicide bomber, and shifted the remains to an undisclosed location for identification process.

A suspect identified as Shahbaz was also taken from the spot and was shifted to an unidentified location for interrogation.

Civil Lines division SP Investigation Dr Hyder Ashraf told Dawn the bomber used a suicide belt which contained pellets, but that he was yet to be identified.

The SP said the bomber could not enter into the madrassa during prayer timings because of security checking by four policemen and madrassa volunteers.

However, he said that as the police left the venue after the departure of people, the bomber made his entry and blew himself up.

He said Mr Naeemi had recently refused to receive police guards when he was contacted for the purpose.

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