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At Least 55 Dead in Pakistan Bombing


Pakistani relatives gather beside the covered bodies of victims who were killed in suicide bomb attack in Wagah border near Lahore, Nov. 2, 2014.

A bomb attack in the Lahore region of Pakistan has killed at least 55 people, and more than 100 are wounded.

The attack took place near the Wagah border crossing with India where a "lowering of the flags" ceremony is held every evening.

The ceremony starts just before sunset and hundreds of people, including foreign tourists, normally gather on both sides of the border to witness it.

A Pakistani militant faction called 'Jamaat ul Ahrar' claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in a statement sent to media outlets via email.

The statement said the attack was revenge for deaths caused by Pakistan's army during counter-insurgency operations in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

The faction used to be part of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, referred to generally as the Pakistani Taliban, and claims it now represents the Islamic State jihadist group.

The head of Pakistan's security forces on the eastern border, Major-General Khan Tahir Javed Khan, told reporters the bomber apparently wanted to strike the flag ceremony but a security cordon stopped him about 500 meters away. The man detonated the explosives at a place where families had stopped to buy food after witnessing the ceremony.

“It was a suicide blast. We have found body parts including arms and legs,” he said. “Investigation is in progress and I will inform you when we complete our investigation.”

Punjab Province Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukera said no one had expected an attack would target civilians.

“Last reports reaching to me shows around 55 people killed and some 118 injured in the blast. Nobody could have imagined that innocent people will be targeted,” he said. “In Punjab there are no ‘no go’ areas or any hideouts. It’s a populous province and whenever there is an intelligence report, we take action and I must say we have arrested numerous terrorists recently.”

Sunday's violence was the first near the flag ceremony, which has been taking place since 1959.

Wagah is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India.