WAGAH, Pakistan — Pakistanis mourned on Monday for the victims of a massive suicide bombing near the border with India as the death toll from the explosion the previous day rose to 60, police said.
The attack, for which a Taliban splinter faction claimed responsibility, was the deadliest to hit the country in over a year. In September 2013, a suicide bombing killed at least 85 people in a church in Peshawar province.
“They are not Muslim,” said one man of the militant Islamist groups that claimed responsibility for the terror attack. “They should be eliminated.”
45 people, including women and children, died on the spot, while 15 others later died of injuries in hospitals. Out of 80 injured, the condition of many remains critical.
The authorities say the suicide bomber was carrying around 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosives. The Director General Rangers said the death toll would have been much greater had the bomber been able to enter the main venue where hundreds of people were watching the ceremony.
CCTV America’s Danial Khan reports
At least sixty killed in bombing at Pakistan-India borderA suicide bomb on the Pakistan-India border killed at least sixty people and injured dozens. As CCTV America's Danial Khan reports, security has been enhanced across Pakistan.
Pakistan has seen a lull of sorts since mid-June, when the military launched a major offensive against militants in North Waziristan, a restive tribal area in the northwest, bordering Afghanistan. The army says its offensive has killed over 1,200 insurgents.
In Sunday’s attack, the bomber detonated his explosives near a paramilitary checkpoint close to the Wagah border crossing with India, as hundreds of Pakistanis were returning from watching a military parade on the outskirts of Lahore.
Archrivals Pakistan and India hold daily parades and flag-flying ceremonies on their respective sides of the border, drawing thousands of spectators. The parades are meant to be a show of strength between the foes — the two nuclear-power nations have fought three wars since they gained independence in 1947.
The Pakistani Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for the army’s operations in North Waziristan and the killing of their fellow militants there. Ahrar broke off from the Taliban in August, after several commanders had a falling out with the rest of the Taliban leadership.
“We will continue such attacks,” the group’s spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, told The Associated Press. He spoke over the phone from an undisclosed location.
Pakistan went ahead with the daily parade near the Indian border on Monday, despite initially announcing the event would be cancelled for the next three days.
“Such cowardly attacks cannot defeat us and our nation,” army Gen. Naveed Zaman said during Monday’s ceremony near the Wagah crossing. He thanked “thousands who have come here to defy the terrorists’ designs.”
India cancelled its ceremony for three days, according to Ashok Kumar, an official with the Indian Border Security Force. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack, describing it as a “dastardly act of terrorism.”
The militants in North Waziristan — including the Pakistani Taliban and affiliated militant groups — have been waging a war against the Pakistani state for over a decade, aiming to topple the government, and have killed thousands of people. Since the military offensive, the militants have been on the run, some of them moving to other tribal areas or fleeing to neighboring Afghanistan.
Security has been boosted in all major Pakistani cities to thwart possible attacks on minority Shiite Muslims as they observe the Ashoura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
But, Khokhar, the police officer, said there was no Shiite procession in the Wagah border area when the bombing happened. He said police later found another bomb and an explosives vest near the attack site.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.