At least 26 people were killed and 49 others injured as a suicide blast hit the downtown area of Pakistan’s eastern city Lahore Monday afternoon, officials said.
Khawaja Salman Rafique, health minister of the country’s eastern Punjab province, said that so far 26 people, including nine policemen, have lost their lives in the blast while 49 others are under treatment at three different hospitals in the city.
Hospital sources said that the death toll might further rise as at least 15 of the injured are still in critical condition.
According to local media reports, the blast took place at about 4:00 p.m. local time when a suicide bomber hit policemen escorting a local anti-encroachment team demolishing illegal buildings of a vegetable market near a Technology Park in downtown Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province.
Haider Ashraf, deputy inspector general of police, confirmed that it was a suicide blast and the target was the police, adding that two police inspectors are among the deceased.
Ashraf said the bomber hit the policemen when they were having a roadside meeting to establish check posts to stop encroachers to enter the vegetable market.
Several buildings, ten motorbikes and one vehicle near the blast site were also damaged, according to local media. Security forces and rescue teams rushed to the site shortly after the blast was reported and shifted the bodies and injured to the hospitals.
An emergency has been declared in all hospitals in Lahore. Bomb disposal officers claimed to have found the head of the suicide bomber, adding that around 10-12 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and expressed deep sorrows over the loss of precious lives.
PM Sharif directed the authorities concerned for extending best possible medical treatment for the injured.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Ahmad Shah Masood, a splinter group of Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the suicide blast, local media reported. The group, in its message, said that a 13-year-old boy had conducted the suicide attack.