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Pak forms JIT to probe Lahore attack, detains over 200 since Easter

world Updated: Mar 30, 2016 00:51 IST
Lahore blasts

Rescue workers move a body from the site of a blast outside a public park in Lahore on March 27, 2016.(Reuters)

Pakistan has detained more than 200 people and questioned thousands more as authorities hunt down those behind the Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore that killed 73 people, including children, the Punjab provincial law minister said on Tuesday.

He also announced that a joint investigation team has been formed to probe the attack.

“More than 5,000 people were searched and interrogated and most of them were allowed to go, but some 216 have been apprehended for further investigations,” Rana Sanaullah told reporters in Lahore.

Hundreds were injured when explosives packed with ball bearings ripped through crowds near a children’s play area in the park in an operation claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Earlier in the day, Ehansullah Ehsan, spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, derided Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Twitter. “After the Lahore attack, Nawaz Sharif repeated old words to give himself false assurances,” he wrote.

“Nawaz Sharif should know that war has reached his doorstep, and God willing the mujahideen will be the winners in this war.”

Sharif had vowed in a televised address on Monday to avenge the attack in the provincial capital.

The attack was the worst so far in 2016 for a country grimly accustomed to atrocities, and will further fray inter-religious ties in the Muslim-majority nation.

Sanaullah said 56 intelligence operations had been carried out jointly by police, paramilitary, troops and intelligence agents in the last 24 hours in Punjab.

Talking about investigations into the Lahore attack, the law minister said a JIT has been formed to probe the incident, which will be headed by the SSP counter terrorism department.

More were being undertaken in all districts of Pakistan’s wealthiest province “against sectarian militants and extremists”, he said. Security for 550 churches in the province has been increased, he said, and a five-member team has been tasked with investigating Sunday’s attack.

On Tuesday, the death toll climbed to 73 after a 16-year-old boy succumbed to his injuries, doctors said.