Little headway in Lahore blast investigation

LAHORE: Law enforcement agencies (LEA) on Tuesday found bodies of two men in the debris of the buildings that had collapsed from the impact of Monday night’s explosion on Outfall Road in Lahore. However, they are yet to establish the exact epicentre of the blast and forensic experts believe that the explosives might have been triggered accidentally because of humidity.

As many as 48 people were injured in the blast and taken to different hospitals in the city for treatment. Of them, 46 have been discharged, and two patients are being treated at Mayo Hospital, where doctors have termed their condition stable. The deceased have been identified as Rasheed, 45, of Arifwala and Amanat Ali of Kamoke.

Rehmat Bhatti, the owner of the parking stand where the explosion had occurred, said the truck, believed to have been carrying the explosives, had been reported to the police after employees at the parking stand noticed putrid odour of decaying fruit lingering around the vehicle. However, he said, the police had refused to check the truck, saying that it wasn’t their job to sift through rotten fruit.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Amin Wains confirmed that the police had received a complaint, but added that the employees at the parking stand had not mentioned explosives.

Bodies of two men found in debris of building that had collapsed from impact of blast

Soon after the blast, which was heard in a radius of four to five kilometres of the site, LEAs cordoned off the crime scene to collect forensic evidence the next day as the entire area was plunged into darkness following damage to high voltage (132kV) cables from Saggian Grid Station that were passing through the area.

Despite reports pointing at a mini-truck as the site of the blast, forensic experts and LEAs said that they were yet to pinpoint the vehicle carrying the explosives and the location where it was parked.

They admitted that they were not certain whether it had been a remote-controlled bomb or an explosive of another kind. Forensic experts were of the view that over 100kg explosives had been used in the blast, which might have blown up due to a build-up of humidity from fruits decaying in the mini-truck.

City Division Operations Police Superintendent Adil Memon told Dawn that they had found the bodies of two men in the debris of buildings that had collapsed in the blast.

He said initial investigations indicated that over 100kg of combustible material stored in a mini-truck abandoned in a parking lot had blown up because of an unknown reason. There were no ball bearings in the explosives, he said, otherwise the damage would have been far greater. Over 50 vehicles parked in the lot had been destroyed and 50 others partially damaged, the SP added.

The Lahore Counter Terrorism Department police station has registered a case under sections of the Explosives Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act against unidentified suspects and added charges pertaining to murder and attempt to murder.

There have been several high-profile terrorism incidents in Lahore this year, including one near the Arfa Karim IT Tower last month which killed 26 people, including nine policemen, and left 58 others injured.

Terrorists killed in encounter

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on Tuesday claimed to have gunned down four alleged terrorists of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) in an ‘encounter’ near Saggian Bridge in Lahore.

A CTD spokesperson said following the explosion on Outfall Road, police personnel had been deployed at all entrances to the capital city. A CTD team in Sheikhupura received information from a credible source that six or seven TTP terrorists were travelling to Lahore from Sheikhupura at around 12:30am on Monday night, to “launch an attack on police personnel deployed on duty”.

The policemen cordoned off the area near Saggian Bridge on the Sheikhupura side and stopped a suspicious vehicle. According to the spokesperson, the policemen told the suspects to surrender but they opened fire on the police. He said the police shot back in self-defence killing four suspects. However, three to four of their accomplices had managed to escape, he said. He said police had found explosives, two Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and ammunition in the possession of the suspects.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2017

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