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Pakistan Tightens Security After Shrine Suicide Bombing


Authorities have tightened security around religious places across the country, a day after two suicide bombers struck a famous Muslim Sufi shrine in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 42 people and wounding more than 180 others.

Pakistani police say an investigation into the deadly attack at Lahore's Data Durbar shrine is underway. Experts are using body parts of two suspected suicide bombers discovered at the scene to identify the attackers.

But the District Coordinating Officer, Sajjad Bhutta, said they have yet to report any progress. He says tight security measures were put in place particularly around mosques following the attack to ensure safety of Muslim worshipers offering Friday prayers.

"The security has been beefed up at all such places and at the place where it (the attack) occurred yesterday," Bhutta said. "A probe has been ordered and we would have to wait for their findings."

Several thousand people were inside the shrine for special prayers when the attack occurred.

Security camera footage released to media showed the first bomber detonating his explosives in an underground room where pilgrims sleep and wash themselves before praying. Minutes later, a second bomber blew himself up in a large courtyard in front of the shrine. The powerful explosions ripped concrete from the walls, twisted metal gates and left the white marble floor awash in blood.

Authorities suspect members of Pakistan Taliban movement are behind Thursday's attack. But a spokesman for the extremist group has denied any involvement, saying their fighters only target security forces.

Analyst and professor of international relations Hassan Askari said that while the shrine is seen as a soft target, Taliban militants have demonstrated their opposition to such religious places for being symbols of moderate Islam.

"Ideologically and from the perspective of their religious denomination, they are not in favor of these kind of shrines and the activities that take place there," Askari said. "Therefore, they also were functioning within the framework of their sectarian denominational outlook because in the past there were several attacks in the frontier province, Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw, where several shrines were damaged."

The attack is being widely condemned across Pakistan because the Sufi shrine is seen as a symbol of moderate Islam.

As Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani put it, the Data Darbar shine has sentimental value to Muslims across the country. Targeting it, he said, shows the attackers have no consideration for religion, faith and belief.

In a statement issued Friday, the U.S embassy in Islamabad condemned the deadly bombings, saying it demonstrates blatant disregard for the lives of the Pakistani people and the future of the country.

An anti-Taliban military campaign in northwestern parts of the country has triggered a wave of suicide and other terrorist attacks in Pakistan, killing more than 3,000 people in the past three years. In May, a coordinated suicide raid on two worship places for the minority Ahmadi community in Lahore left at least 82 people dead.

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