World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 55 people, including three Pakistani border security personnel, were killed and over 120 others were injured in a suspected suicide bomb attack at Pakistan’s Wagah border with India Sunday, police said.
The Wagah border crossing is near Pakistan’s second largest metropolitan city Lahore. Every evening, crowds on both sides of the border gather to witness a special lowering of flags ceremony, which border guards conduct with great pomp and show.
Eyewitnesses say the blast occurred when hundreds of people were disembarking from a pavilion at the end of the traditional ceremony.
"It was a deafening blast that tossed me into the air and threw me meters away," Ghulam Mustafa, an eyewitness told reporters.
"All I remember is a massive blast followed by hue and cry from people," Tahir Ali, who received minor injuries, told reporters at a private hospital.
Charred pieces of human flesh, shoes, clothes and other belongings were strewn all across the blast site. Several ambulances rushed to the site to shift dozens of injured and dead to hospitals.
Major General Tahir Khan, head of the Pakistani border security force known as Pakistan Rangers, confirmed the death toll was 55, which includes three of his personnel.
Dr Khurram Hussein, an administrator of a private hospital near the blast site, told media that apart from 55 bodies, nearly 120 people with injuries were brought to the hospital.
Earlier, Punjab police chief Mushatq Sukhera said police had collected ball bearings from the blast site that indicated it was carried out by a suicide bomber.
At least three different Pakistani Taliban groups are now said to have claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to local TV reports, the outlawed Jundullah group was the first one to claim the attack.
Later, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's Hakeemullah Mehsud group also claimed responsibility. The group’s commander Gilman Mehsud told local journalists by telephone the attack was a reaction to killing of one of its senior members Abdullah Bahar, who was killed in a drone strike last week. Later, a third group Jamat-ul-Ahrar's spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan told a local Pakistani TV channel that the attack was in reaction to the ongoing Pakistan Army military operation in the country’s tribal areas.
"Our side is safe, we are alert, have increased our security, we are in constant touch with district officials and state police," Kumar said.