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Saturday, May 29, 2010
By Salman Aslam, Arshad Dogar and Sajid Bashir
In Model Town, the people fought with the terrorists and overpowered them after the two terrorists had killed many worshippers. However, in Garhi Shahu, many people were rescued after the police launched an operation.
Among the dead were former sessions judge Ameer Ahmad Sheikh, also the Ameer of the Ahmedis Lahore Chapter, Ejazul Haq, a reporter of a private TV channel, and Major General (retd) Nasir Ahmad.
SP Qila Gujjar Singh Lines Babar Bukht Qureshi said both the worship places were packed for the Friday prayers. In the first incident, seven gunmen made the worshippers hostage in the heavily built-up Garhi Shahu building at 1:40 pm, eyewitnesses said.
The assailants wearing explosive vests and carrying arms and ammunition hurled three grenades after an interval of 10 minutes and took positions at different points. Gunfire and explosions continued for a long time at the worship place. The attackers hurled the fourth grenade at 2:09 pm, the fifth one at 2:23 pm, the sixth at 2:40 pm and the next three after an interval of two minutes each.
One attacker was atop a minaret, firing with an assault rifle and throwing grenades as the police were engaged in a fierce gunbattle with the armed men below.At least, 500-600 worshippers, including children, were trapped in the building. Around 10 cars parked outside the building were damaged.
The attackers again started firing at 2:30 pm. Jawans of the Elite Force launched the operation. A police team, led by SP Babar Bukht Qureshi, managed to break open the back door of the building and rescued the trapped worshippers. Three attackers apparently blew themselves up while no details were available about the other attackers, a police officer said.
The attackers also fired shots and hurled a hand grenade at the mosque of Ahl-e-Hadees, adjacent to the City Law College. Indiscriminate firing by the assailants smashed the windowpanes of nearby buildings.
A police official said there were only two attackers inside who eventually blew themselves up. Police recovered two damaged AK-47 rifles and four hand grenades from them, he added. People gathered outside the building raised slogans of Allah-ho-Akbar when police launched the operation. Two armoured vehicles were arranged to rescue the hostages.
ASP Civil Lines Maroof was wounded. He got an injury on his leg when his gun went off accidentally. SP Cantt Haider Ashraf and his gunman also received minor injuries in firing by terrorists.
Many could sense the frustration of SP VVIP Captain (retd) Romeel Akram, who stood in the corner of the building, puffing away at cigarettes, not being able to hunt down the attackers. The police placed barbed wires and barricades to keep the people away from the spot. But people, including women and children, assembled near the building to watch the rescue operation. Many families witnessed the police operation from the rooftop of their buildings.
Families of the worshippers rushed to the site to inquire about their children studying in the City Law College. Agony painted on the face of a woman running barefoot alongside the road depressed many, as she did not find her son in the stampede. The locals said security was not sufficient on Friday as compared to the past.
A group of armed policemen created panic among the already terrified people by opening indiscriminate firing in the air as a mark of jubilation. Later, they raised slogans of Allah-o-Akbar and dispersed.
A dozen ambulances took the dead and injured to hospitals. The process of shifting the dead and injured to the hospitals continued till 7:30 pm.
Jaffar, a Class VIII student, who was rescued by the police from the building, said two gunmen on the rooftop and one on a minaret were firing at the worshippers. The boy’s father, Farid, had also been trapped inside Baitul Noor in Model Town.
As gunfire rattled around him, Jaffar made a call to his mother by cell-phone, telling her he was hiding in a room adjacent to the building. “All people are trying to save their lives,” he told his mother.
A middle-aged man said he was too scared to leave, even after the firing had stopped. “I just pretended dead and kept lying among the dead in a pool of blood,” he recalled.
A man rescued by the police said he went upstairs and found a room where he hid under a table. “I was too afraid to leave, even after the firing had stopped,” he maintained.
Aqeel Ahmad, a UET student, who hailed from DG Khan, said he had been visiting the said building for the last three years for worship. He was worried as his two friends were trapped in the building.
In the second attack, two men wearing explosive vests reached Baitul Noor at 87-C Model Town at around 1:41 pm on a bike and shot dead two guards, one performing duty 20 yards away from the building, and the other on the main entrance.
Later, they parked their bike in which a time device was planted near a picket, set up by the administration of the building and rushed inside the three-storey building. The two opened indiscriminate fire at the worshippers present inside the building and hurled two hand grenades at the people, as a result of which dozens of people, including children, sustained severe wounds.
One attacker stayed in the main hall while the other rushed to the other hall. Meanwhile, one of the two assailants was overpowered by some worshippers, who snatched his gun before he could blow himself up. “We grabbed his arms so that he could not pull the pin of explosive vest he had worn,” said a youth, who declined to be named.
The worshippers gave a good thrashing to him and the men on security fired shots at him and, as a result, he received around nine wounds in both legs.
“He tried to fire shots from his AK-47 rifle, but fortunately the bullet stuck in the chamber and we managed to grab his arms to stop him from making another move,” Rizwan said and added the jackets they had snatched from the assailants contained around 2-kg of explosive. The explosive in the jackets containing ball-bearings was attached with a detonator.
The other attacker, who was in the second hall, could not timely reach the spot to save his accomplice. The worshippers encircled him when he was reloading his weapon.
Physical brawl between the attackers and the worshippers was going on when the area echoed with the sounds of a huge explosion. The time device planted in the bike parked a few yards away from the building exploded with a big bang. As a result, a cameramen and a reporter received injuries. A car and a bike were partially damaged. A DSNG of a private channel was attacked by a bike rider, who fired at least seven shots at the vehicle. Luckily all travelling in the vehicle escaped unhurt. Both the attackers, one of whom was identified as Mohammad, were handed over to the police. They were aged 16-18 and were clad in Shalwar Kameez. One had trimmed his beard while the other had a long beard, the building inmates said.
The injured attacker was shifted to the Jinnah Hospital under tight security, while the other was removed to an undisclosed location for questioning.
Inspector General Police Tariq Saleem Dogar, along with heavy contingent of police, reached the spot. An eyewitness, Farid, an engineer by profession, said the attackers had started firing indiscriminately. People were running, trying to find a place to hide, he added.
Another eyewitness said the terrorists had a beard and were clad in Shalwar Kameez and looked like from the tribal area.
Many eyewitnesses said the police reached the site when they had already captured the attackers.
The Bomb Disposal Squad defused almost 18 hand grenades and four detonators, besides collecting the remains of the explosive devices for forensic examination.
A violent mob attempted to snatch official weapons from DSP Model Town Nasar Bajwa. The locals of the area expressed concern over the string of militant attacks and condemned the government for not taking concrete measures to protect the lives of innocent citizens.
Agencies add: Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervez has claimed the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, had been backing terror elements to sabotage peace in Pakistan. He said terrorists in Model Town and Garhi Shahu used AK-47 rifles, Russian-made hand grenades and suicide jackets.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have ordered an inquiry into the deadly incident in Lahore. They have condemned the incidents in strongest terms.