Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times
Islamabad, November 02, 2014

The flag ceremony at Wagah is attended by hundreds on both sides of the border and is particularly crowded on Sunday. (File Photo)

As many as 48 people, including women and children, were killed and over 70 were injured in a suicide bomb attack at the Wagah checkpoint near Lahore and along the India-Pakistan border on Sunday evening.

A man entered the security perimeter of the checkpoint and blew himself up when stopped by soldiers of the Pakistani Rangers paramilitary force, said Punjab police chief Mushtaq Sukhera. Pakistani security officials suspect the bomber planned to detonate himself further inside the checkpoint to target people on the Indian side.

The attack, at around 6.15pm, came at the end of a colourful military parade staged by Indian and Pakistani soldiers that attracts thousands of spectators every day and is popular with foreign tourists. Most of the people who died in the blast were returning from the ceremony.

Several members of a single family and at least three border guards were among the people killed. TV channels showed people crying as they brought in injured people to Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital and other medical centres.

“We received 35 bodies including those of women and children and 60 to 70 were wounded,” Deputy Medical Superintendent of Ghurki Hospital near the Wagah border crossing, identified only as Dr Khurram, told Pakistani television channels.

Lahore police chief Amin Wains confirmed it was a suicide attack. “Ball bearings were found at the scene,” he said. TV channels showed images of gutted shops and buildings near the checkpoint. Militant group Jundullah, which is associated with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Every day before sunset soldiers from Pakistan and India gather at Wagah, the only road border crossing between Amritsar and Lahore, to simultaneously lower the two nations’ flags.

Pakistan has been wracked by a homegrown Taliban insurgency that has killed thousands of people in recent years, but attacks have tailed off since the army launched a major anti-militant offensive in the northwest in June.

India’s Border Security Force (BSF) troopers were put on high alert along the India-Pakistan border after the attack.

(With inputs from agencies)

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