05/08/2019, 10.18
PAKISTAN
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Lahore: At least 9 dead and 24 wounded in attack on a Sufi shrine

by Kamran Chaudhry

The Data Darbar is the largest Sufi shrine in South Asia, which welcomes up to one million pilgrims a year. The suicide bomber wanted to hit the police patrol that controlled one of the sanctuary's entrances. Fr. James Channan: "Another sad example of religious terrorism". In the month of Ramadan, mosques and shrines are crowded with worshipers. Moulana Tahir Ashrafi, president of the Ulema Council of Pakistan, thanks for the messages of solidarity from Christians and other religious minorities.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - At least 9 dead and 24 wounded is the first assessment of a suicide attack this morning at 8.45 am near the Sufi shrine of Data Darbar. Of the 9 victims, five are policemen. After emergency relief, the sanctuary was isolated. The faithful have all been removed and for now it is closed to visits. Many streets in the center have been closed and several commercial offices are also now closed.

The Data Darbar is the largest Sufi shrine in South Asia and was built to guard the tomb of Abul Hassan Ali Hujwiri, a Muslim mystic who lived in the 11th century. Embellished and expanded in the Moghul period (XVI century), then in the 800 and finally in the 1880’s, it is a continuous destination of pilgrimages. Up to one million pilgrims visit each year.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place at the beginning of Ramadan. Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the violence, and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

The police believe that the goal of the suicide attack was precisely the police who control the sanctuary 24 hours a day. In a first reconstruction, it seems that the suicide bomber targeted policemen who controlled one of the sanctuary's entrances. According to the bomb technicians, the bomb contained at least seven pounds of explosive material.

Fr James Channan, regional coordinator of the United Religions Initiative Pakistan, compares the terrorist gesture in Lahore with the explosions in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

He told AsiaNews: "This is another sad example of religious terrorism. The terrorists are doing everything to create fear among the faithful and block them in living their religious practices. This explosion in the holy month of Ramadan is terrible. In this month of fasting, mosques and shrines are always crowded with faithful. We want to express our solidarity with the government, the security forces and the families of the victims ".

Moulana Tahir Ashrafi, president of the Ulema Council of Pakistan, thanked for the messages of solidarity from Christians and other religious minorities. "This - he said - is an attack against humanity, an attempt to sabotage the peace and stability of our country. We remain united in this time of mourning. We are very encouraged to see that in New Zealand non-Muslims watch over mosques after devastating terrorist attacks. And we are grateful to the Lahore police and to the sacrifice of their lives, which saved thousands of faithful who filled the sanctuary. We are not afraid of terrorists: our mosques and sanctuaries will remain crowded ".

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