Bhara Kahu failed suicide bombing attempt

Islamabad – Police on Sunday were still trying to establish whether the suspected suicide bomber, who was killed after a foiled attack on a mosque in Bhara Kahu on Friday, the first day of Eidul Fitr, was linked with some terrorist outfit or acting alone.

One security guard was also killed in the attack.

However, Police sources told The Express Tribune the authorities were making headway in their investigations.

“Three to four people have been involved in the investigations and we are hopeful of making a breakthrough in the case by Monday,” a police official, who requested anonymity, said. “The people being investigated include the father and brothers of the suicide bomber.”

After the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) of Islamabad had used the attacker’s fingerprints to identify the attacker as Zakaullah, a resident of village Chak 239 JB in tehsil Bhawana of Punjab’s Chiniot district, security agencies and local police raided the village and arrested Zakaullah’s father, Mohammad Baksh, and two brothers, Samiullah and Hakimullah, on Saturday.

Police refused to say whether the family members, who are being interrogated at an undisclosed location, were aware of Zakaullah’s plans or not. But village residents reportedly said that Zakaullah, believed to be in his early 20s, had been away from the village for several months and had an inclination toward Jihad.

Two suspects were also arrested from Chattar near Bhara Kahu on Saturday, sources said. Residents, who live near the mosque, said the bomber could not have acted alone and police said they were searching the nearby areas for potential accomplices.

Meanwhile, Bhara Kahu police station has registered a case against Zakaullah on the charges of murder, attempt to murder, abetment under the Pakistan Penal Code and punishment for acts of terrorism under section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act.

According to police and eyewitness accounts, the suspected attacker barged into the walled compound which houses the Masjid Ali ibne Abi Talib, just off Kayani Road in Bhara Kahu on Islamabad’s outskirts, around 2pm on Friday. There is only one entry gate to the compound, which also contains a few houses, two hostels and a madrassa.

The gate of the compound was open at the time Zakaullah made his way there, according to eyewitnesses, and a barrier in front of the gate also did not create any hurdle in his way.

CCTV footage shows the attacker started indiscriminate firing as he ran toward the mosque, once inside the compound. There were only a few people inside the compound at that time, some of them trying to pull down a tarp that had been put up for Eid prayers earlier during the day, others returning from security duty outside the mosque to offer their prayers.

The area residents think it was Divine Providence that on that particular day, the mosque conducted its Friday prayers 15 minutes earlier than the usual 1:30pm prayer time.

When the prayers ended, the congregation, which consisted of around 40 people dispersed immediately because of a heavy but brief rain shower, Wajid Kazmi, who lives next door to the compound, said.

As Zakaullah fired shots from his pistol, people in his way ducked, ran and sought shelter in the mosque and other buildings, according to the CCTV footage.

Zakaullah shot the mosque’s private security guard Syed Amin Hussain, who was performing ablution in the mosque’s courtyard, in the chest and moved forward, firing shots from his pistol all the while. He was tackled by a worshipper, Jabbar Hussain Shah, and the two men scuffled as Zakaullah tried to break away and enter the mosque’s covered area.

In the ensuing scuffle, eyewitnesses said, the suicide bomber tried to blow himself up but the vest, which, according to the Bomb Disposal Squad, had around four kilogrammes of explosives on it, malfunctioned.  It was then that the security guard Hussain, who later died of excessive bleeding, shot Zakaullah in the head from behind, killing the attacker.

Three other worshippers — Bilal Haider, Haq Nawaz and Shah — were injured in the attack. Nawaz had a gunshot wound to his elbow and the other two received minor injuries. They were all discharged from a local hospital after treatment on the same day.

Locals said they called the police immediately but the reaction from the authorities was extremely slow. The Bomb Disposal Squad, which later defused the suicide vest, did not show up until at least 90 minutes after the incident had been reported to the police.

Station House Officer (SHO) of the Bhara Kahu Police Station, Abid Hussain, was suspended on the same day, along with five other officials. Four constables have been positioned outside the mosque compound, which is a couple of hundred metres away from an Imambargah. But residents said they urge the government to provide a permanent security solution for the mosque.

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