By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian government workers were among those recovering from injuries Friday, December 26, after a mini truck laden with explosives detonated near their homes in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, killing one Christian woman and injuring up to six people, officials and local residents said.
The Christmas Eve blast at Government Officers Residences, a heavily guarded neighborhood, was claimed by a previously unknown group with close ties to the militant Taliban group, several news reports said. Pakistan had earlier suggested that nationals from India were involved, reported the Press Trust of India (PTI), one of India’s main news agencies.
A man identifying as Toofan Wazir, a commander and spokesman of the ‘Ansar Wa Mohajir’ group reportedly told ‘The News’ daily from somewhere in North Waziristan that his fighters were responsible for the Lahore blast and earlier rocket attacks on the city of Dera Ismail Khan. .
Wazir reportedly threatened more attacks against security forces and government installations to avenge recent US missile strikes in North Waziristan in which several militants from Punjab province were killed.
Witnesses said the bomb-rigged truck with government plates that exploded in Lahore killed a Christian woman, identified as Farzana Bibi. She was to be buried in the Bahar Colony Christian graveyard of Lahore, Christians said. Her husband, Salamat Masih, was also critically injured in the same bomb blast detonated by a remote control, officials said.
Other critically injured Christian men were identified as Shanawar Masih, Pervez Masih, while other injured persons included two Muslim men identified as Sabir, Muhammad Arif and Iftikhar, BosNewsLife learned. The injured were immediately transferred to a local hospital. It was not immediately clear Friday, December 26, whether their situation had improved.
Police said the attack could have been more devastating, but that the vehicle exploded prematurely apparently because assailants feared they had been spotted by law enforcement agencies. All that remained of the vehicle used in the blast was a pile of mangled metal, witnesses said.
Local residents told BosNewsLife that the impact of the blast broke countless of windows and trees, while doors and a wall also collapsed.
Wednesday’s attack added to concern among Christians in Pakistan, where police have stepped up patrols around churches and other Christian institutions.
The Christian minority has increasingly been targeted by Islamic militants, and many believers have been in cross-fire fighting between US-backed Pakistani security forces and militants in border areas near Afghanistan, according to rights groups and local churches. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).