Suicide bomber kills 24 as lawyers meet for Musharraf protest
Jeremy Page and Zahid Hussain in Islamabad
The Times, UK: January 11, 2008
A suicide bomber shattered the relative calm of Lahore - the second-biggest city in Pakistan - yesterday when he rushed up to riot police outside the High Court and blew himself up, killing at least 24 people.
Pakistan has suffered a series of suicide attacks since July, including one that killed Benazir Bhutto two weeks ago, but this was the first in Lahore and it raised fears of an upsurge in militant activity before parliamentary elections on February 18.
It came as eight detectives from Scotland Yard were elsewhere in the city - the capital of the eastern province of Punjab - to examine evidence from the assassination of Ms Bhutto, the opposition leader and former Prime Minister.
The attack yesterday, which wounded at least 60 people, appeared to be aimed to coincide with a meeting of lawyers from the Lahore High Court Bar Association, who were about to begin their weekly protest against President Musharraf.
Police said that a man aged about 20 pulled up near the court on a motorcycle just before midday, then dismounted and ran at the police cordon and detonated a jacket containing 14kg (30lb) of explosives and 3kg of ball bearings.
“It appears the bomber was on foot and, as soon as some policemen tried to stop him, he blew himself up,” Malik Muhammad Iqbal, the chief of police, told reporters at the scene. All but two of those killed were policemen, he said.
“We we heard a huge bang and the building was shaken,” Mian Jameel Akhtar, a Lahore High Court advocate, told The Times. “After a few seconds the smoke came in and we knew from the smell that it was a bomb. I went to the main gate and saw pieces of human bodies scattered hither and thither. It was terrible.”
Tasaddaq Hussain, the Lahore police chief investigator, said that his men had found the bearded bomber's head about 100 metres from the blast site and would reconstruct it and extract DNA from his other body parts to try to establish his identity.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but security officials said that they suspected militants linked to the Taleban and al-Qaeda.
Nisar Memon, the Federal Information Minister, said that the violence would not affect the election schedule.Suicide bombings killed nearly 1,000 people in Pakistan in 2007 - second only to Iraq.