'Extortion mafia' bombs train; 3 passengers killed
06 August, 2013
LAHORE: At least three passengers were killed and several others wounded on Monday when a bomb exploded in a train compartment near Toba Tek Singh, officials said, in what the railways minister called "an act of terrorism" and which was blamed on the "extortion mafia".
According to the initial report, Karachi-bound Shalimar Express which was coming from Lahore applied emergency brakes near Chatyana Railway Station, Toba Tek Singh, soon after a blast occurred inside an economy class compartment. The explosion killed three people, including a ten-year-old child, while more than 15 were wounded. Rescue teams and police shifted the wounded to Toba Tek Singh and an emergency was declared in all the city hospitals. The condition of many of the wounded was reported to be critical and there were fears that the death toll might rise.
Most of the passengers on the train were on their way to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with their families. The device on the Shalimar Express went off as it passed through fields near Toba Tek Singh. "It was an act of terrorism. The explosive was planted in the washroom of a bogie (wagon)," Railways Minister Saad Rafique told reporters in Lahore. "Fourteen people have been injured, condition of three of them are critical." Mohammad Hussain, medical superintendent in main Toba Tek Singh hospital told AFP that a child had succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Shehzad Asif, district police chief, confirmed the death and told AFP that bomb disposal experts and police investigators were examining the "remnants and broken pieces of the explosive material". TV footage showed the explosion had damaged the roof of the carriage but not forced the train off the rails, suggesting a relatively low-intensity blast. Farah Masood, a senior government official in Lahore, confirmed to AFP that a locally-made explosive device was used in the explosion and that 14 people had been injured. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
Railways Minister Saad Rafique told media that the Shalimar Express operator had been receiving threatening telephone calls from extortionists and he had conveyed the matter to the Pakistan Railways' high-ups who informed the Intelligence Bureau which traced the phone calls. To a question, he said that apparently the phone calls were being made to demand extortion from the operator and it would be too early to fix responsibility at the moment. However, he said, a committee comprising MNA Javed Anwar and railways officers has been constituted to probe the incident.
Media quoted railways sources as saying that unidentified miscreants had phoned railways officials to demand Rs 50 million extortion. The extortionists had threatened to target trains if the extortion money was not paid. Security agencies started investigation and traced the telephone number. The call was made from Afghanistan, officials said. Officials said about 10 kilogrammes of explosive was planted inside toilet of the compartment.
Pakistan Railways has released the list of 11 people injured in the bomb blast. They are: Munir (Lahore), Aleem Masih (Faisalabad), Muhammad Tariq (Sukkur), Ruksana Kausar (Rahim Yar Khan), Asif (Rahim Yar Khan), Abdul Wahid (Sukkur), Saghir (Rahim Yar Khan), Muhammad, Allah Wasaya (Karachi), Mujahid (Karachi) and Muhammad Arshad of Karachi. Security is on high alert across the country as intelligence agencies have warned of possible acts of terrorism near Eid.