At least 26 people were killed and 58 others injured on Monday in a powerful explosion, claimed by Pakistan Taliban, near an IT Park in Pakistan’s Lahore city, officials said.
The deafening explosion, which authorities blamed on a suicide bomber, occurred at the entrance of the Kot Lakhpat Vegetable Market on Ferozepur Road.
Punjab government spokesperson Malik Mohammad Ahmed said 26 people lost their lives and 58 were injured when a car bomb struck the old vegetable market.
A top police official said the blast was a suicide attack and “police were the target” — the 26 dead included nine policemen.
Senior police official Imran Awan said the injured had been shifted to the Jinnah Hospital and other hospitals. Several of the injured were in critical condition and the toll may rise, Geo News reported.
According to Awan, an anti-encroachment drive was underway at the vegetable market near Arfa Karim Software Technology Park when the explosion took place.
A fire erupted after the explosion. Glass panes of nearby buildings were shattered.
The area where the blast took place is supposed to be one of the most secure neighbourhoods of Lahore, just 100 metres from the Chief Minister’s office.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed the bombing, stating that it used a “motorcycle bomb” to target police officials.
The top civilian and military leadership has denounced the blast and extended their condolences to the bereaved relatives.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives. He directed authorities to provide all possible medical assistance.
“No words can express the grief which grips my heart now,” Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief over the incident and said that he was equally grieved over the loss as that of victims’ families.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz also expressed sorrow over the heart-wrenching incident.
Lahore has been in the centre of terror attacks. A suicide blast on February 13 ripped through a crowd of protesting chemists in front of the Punjab Assembly, leaving 13 people dead and 70 others wounded.
Last year, a suicide bomber killed 72 people at the Gulshan Iqbal Park.
Pakistan launched an anti-terror operation in its tribal regions in June 2014, in which 3,500 alleged terrorists have been killed, according to the data provided by the army.
In February, Islamabad launched a new nationwide military offensive against the insurgency after a series of attacks, and a week ago it started a new offensive with Kabul against the Islamic State.