A suicide bomber attacked the Wagah border on Sunday, leaving over 50 people killed, and over 150 injured. The bombing was apparently a planned attack as it happened to target a large group of people who attend the flag ceremony, in which Pakistan Rangers and India’s BSF close the border post by lowering the flags, just before sunset. Now with this tragic incident, there will be no flag ceremony for three days, starting Monday, as the countries’ military officials work to recover from the damage of the suicide bomber attack.
The ceremony of lowering flags that accompanies the closing of the border between Pakistan and India, is a major event that has always attracted a lot of people, foreign and domestic. On Sunday, during this ceremony, a suicide bomber detonated explosives that were strapped to his body at around 5:50 p.m. At this point, those who attended the ceremony were already leaving the area as the ceremony was coming to a close. The suicide bomber struck at one of two walkthrough gates, where people enter and leave. As people were exiting the second checkpoint gate, the bomber detonated his bomb, about 500 meters from the parade ground where the crowds gather from the ceremony. Those killed were women, children, men and even three Pakistan Rangers.
Police then closed off the area and began looking for the culprit. They found a parked car, situated at the 500 meters from the parade ground, also 500 meters from the India border, where they collected evidence from the scene. The injured and many who were already pronounced dead at the scene were taken to the Gurki Hospital. Many victims were spread across several different government and private hospitals, in both Pakistan and India, as the amount of people killed and wounded resulted in high numbers, too large for one hospital. Bodies of the deceased were left in open areas for family members to find them, as there was not enough room to properly tend to all of the victims. Workers at hospitals stated that they feared the death toll could rise majorly over the next several hours, after the attack, as many of the injured victims had serious injuries that could prove fatal.
The explosion also damaged a large radius of the area around it, taking out the customs building, vehicles, motorcycles, and shopping areas. As the blast was very loud, officials on the other side of the India border heard the explosion and the sound also caused great panic amongst the residents close by. DG Ranger Khan Tahire Javed Khan asked people, including the media, to stay away from the area so they could collect evidence. The information they found showed that the organisation Jundullah claimed responsibility for the suicide attack and the suicide bomber’s name was Abdul Rehman.
As authorities work to tend to the damage they will not be hosting the flag-lowering ceremony for at least three days, starting Monday. Though government officials stated that they had been warned about a possible suicide bomber attack at the ceremony that draws a large crowd, the security measures that they took just were not quite enough. They have plans to, once again, increase security in the future. Until then, the Wagau border remains to be closed as residents and officials recover from this tragic event.
By Crystal Boulware
The Express Tribune