Taliban militants emerged as the prime suspects for devastating suicide attacks targeting a prominent shrine in Pakistan's city of Lahore late on Thursday night. At least 41 people were killed, said a senior intelligence official who spoke to CBS News.
The attack by three suicide bombers targeted the shrine of Data Gunj Bukhsh, the patron saint of Lahore. "The bombings took place when the shrine was crowded with worshippers who usually visit on Thursday night," said Khusro Pervez, the top civil servant of Lahore, speaking to reporters after the attacks.
Thursday's suicide attacks came a month after the May 28th attacks by armed militants who targeted two centers belonging to members the Ahmediya sect in Lahore, killing up to 100 people.
"Suicide attacks have become a favorite tactic used by the Taliban," said a Pakistani intelligence official who spoke to CBS News after Thursday night's attacks on condition of anonymity. "The Taliban seem to be retaliating as Pakistan keeps up the pressure on them," he said.
Pakistan's military has intensified its campaign against Taliban militants since last year when members of the hardline movement tried to seize control of the country's northern Swat valley. The Taliban have chosen prominent urban centres to carry out retaliatory attacks.
Thursday night's attacks underlined Pakistan's internal religious divisions. The Taliban, driven by a strict interpretation of Islam linked to the Wahabi tradition practiced in Saudi Arabia do not visit shrines. They consider the practice to be in violation of their beliefs.
In contrast, most Pakistanis who are Muslims and follow teachings of Sufi saints routinely visit shrines of Sufis to offer their prayers and seek forgiveness and fulfilment of their desires. Thursday night is considered a good time to visit a shrine as the night ahead of Friday, the weekly Muslim Sabbath.
After Thursday night's attacks, a Pakistani government official from Lahore who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the government was aware of other attempts -- likely by the Taliban -- to attack prominent locations in the next few weeks. "The next few weeks will be very tricky. There are reports of similar attempts by the Taliban in the pipeline," said the official.