Pakistan mourns victims of Lahore attack

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistanis Tuesday mourned the victims of a Taliban-claimed suicide bomb in Lahore, as the death toll rose to 15 and the city’s residents railed at the government for failing to protect them.

The chief minister of Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif declared a day of mourning after Monday’s blast, believed to be targeting police managing a busy protest at rush hour on Mall Road, one of Lahore’s main arteries.

At least 15 people were killed, emergency official Ahmad Raza told AFP, including six police officers, while up to 87 were injured. Official funerals were held Tuesday for some of the victims.

The toll could have been much higher, Raza said, but for two vehicles — a TV news van and a minivan belonging to the protesters — which absorbed much of the impact of the blast.

The Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the assault. Lahore residents vented their fury at the militants and the government at the blast site early Tuesday.

“They (the militants) have no link with Islam nor do they believe in any religion, the only thing they know is killing people, this is utterly an act of terrorism,” Tariq Saleem told AFP.

Nadeem Akhter called on the government to do more to bring the situation under control. “Our children and people are being killed in these attacks,” he said.

Both British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew and US ambassador David Hale branded the attack “cowardly” in separate statements, expressing support for the victims, while the EU said it was “shocked and saddened” by the incident. -AFP