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Bomb Rips Through Lahore Airport, Nine Dead

July 22, 1996

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) _ A bomb ripped through Lahore’s international airport Monday, killing nine people and scattering luggage and debris.

Twenty people were seriously injured in the explosion, which blackened walls and heavily damaged at least four airline ticket booths.

The bombing was the 13th blast this year in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. There was no claim of responsibility.

A column of black smoke rose from the terminal after the blast.

``There was a very big bang and then the smoke,″ said Fazal Abdullah, who was pulling up to the airport when the bomb went off. ``I didn’t know what was going on.″

A second, much smaller bomb Monday evening shook a market in the Punjab city of Sargodha, about 100 miles west of Lahore. Nine people were injured. Police said that blast was not linked to the airport bomb.

In April and May, three explosions in the central Punjab province killed 58 people and injured dozens. And three separate blasts last month rocked the city of Gujranwala, killing eight. Most of the bombs targeted public buses and buildings.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has accused India of orchestrating the bombing spree to destabilize the province. India denies it.

Monday’s bomb was slipped through airport security inside a briefcase, and exploded near a telephone booth by the main departure lounge, said Wasi Zafar of Punjab’s Home Ministry.

That part of the airport, crowded with small shops and kiosks, is typically filled with people waiting for arriving passengers.

It was either a time bomb or triggered by remote control, said Zafar, who blamed the attack on terrorists trying to derail the government.

Police said the bomb may have been intended for a departing Pakistan International Airlines flight bound for the southern port of Karachi.

The flight was leaving as the bomb went off.

Three of the victims died while being treated at a central Lahore hospital. Doctors said some of the wounds appeared to be caused by shrapnel.

Federal investigators closed the airport, causing flight delays and cancellations. They would not comment on potential suspects.

Pakistan was formed from Islamic majority areas of India and gained self-government after Britain withdrew from the area in 1947.

Pakistan became a republic nine years later, and Pakistan and India have fought three wars since then.

Each accuses the other of acts of terrorism.

Update hourly