India, Pakistan call off daily border ritual after suicide bomb that killed dozens

Relatives gathering on Monday beside the bodies of victims who were killed on Sunday's suicide bomb attack on the Wagah border, before funeral prayers in Lahore. At least 45 people were killed on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up on the Pa
Relatives gathering on Monday beside the bodies of victims who were killed on Sunday's suicide bomb attack on the Wagah border, before funeral prayers in Lahore. At least 45 people were killed on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up on the Pakistani-Indian border, police said, just after a daily ceremony when troops from both sides simultaneously lower the two nations' flags. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WAGAH, India (Reuters) - India and Pakistan have suspended a daily military ritual on their main land border crossing after a suicide attack that killed dozens of people, the first time the colourful parade has been called off since the two countries went to war in 1971.

India's home ministry said India's Border Security Force agreed to a Pakistani request to suspend the flag-lowering ceremony to allow mourning.

At least 45 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on Sunday by the explosion that ripped through a carpark about 500 metres from Pakistan's border gate just as hundreds of people left the popular daily performance.

Every day, thousands of Indians and Pakistanis flock to watch the elaborate show where border security officials kick their feet high and grimace in mock aggression in a peacock-like display of patriotism.

The crowds pack out bleachers set up on either side of the each country's border gates, which are adorned with large, facing portraits of their founding fathers, Mahatma Gandhi on the Indian side and Mohammed Ali Jinnah on the Pakistani side. "It is the first time we have suspended the ceremony after the war. The ceremony was not suspended even during Kargil,"India's home ministry spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia said on Monday, referring to a 1999 conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours in the town of Kargil triggered by a Pakistan army incursion.

India and Pakistan last fought a fully fledged war in 1971, when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan.

Two kilometres before the border, police stopped tourists from entering the area on Monday. Four buses carrying 180 people including students on a trip from Agra to see the border ceremonies were stopped and decided to go back.