Claimed by Baloch Nationalist Army, blast kills three people, including one child, and injures 33 others
Three people, including one child, were killed on Thursday and 33 others injured after a bomb detonated near Lahore’s Anarkali market, raising concerns about the return of terrorism to the Punjab capital after several years of relative calm.
Initially described as gas cylinder explosion, police confirmed that the incident was a bombing after initial investigations. Speaking to reporters at the scene of the crime, Lahore Police DIG (Operations) Abid Khan said the explosion was likely the result of a planted device, as it had left a crater that was usually the hallmark of such bombs. “A technical team is collecting evidence [right now]. We will reach a conclusion on the basis of their analysis,” he said.
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Umer Sher Chattha, also at the site, told journalists that explosive material had likely been planted in a motorcycle that had been parked outside a bank in the area. Confirming that two people had perished in the immediate aftermath of the incident, he said the investigations had reached a “mature” stage and further information on the nature of the blast would soon be shared with media.
He said that in addition to the Bomb Disposal Squad, the Safe City Authority was examining CCTV footage to ascertain the identity of the culprits. At least two of the injured were in critical condition, he said, adding that all wounded were being treated at the nearby Mayo Hospital.
To a question, he clarified that there had been no security alert ahead of the bombing. However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed that there had been a “risk” of terrorism, adding he would provide more details at a later stage. Appearing on TV overnight, he claimed the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was responsible for the incident, though the group has not yet issued any formal statement to media.
Meanwhile, the Baloch Nationalist Army, a group comprising separatist groups Balochistan Republican Army and the United Baloch Army, claimed responsibility for the blast through its social media account.
Footage of the incident shows that the explosion destroyed several motorcycles at the site. It also damaged several nearby buildings, shattering their windows and the displays of shops. Security officials have said they have identified a potential suspect from CCTV footage, adding that further inquiries are underway to ascertain his movements through Safe City Authority surveillance around the area.
Taking notice of the incident, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said he had directed the inspector general of police to submit a report into the bombing, adding that he had also directed officials to ensure the injured received the best possible medical treatment.
In a separate statement on Twitter, the chief minister said all culprits responsible would be arrested and justice ensured. “This incident is aimed at sabotaging the atmosphere of law and order. Those responsible for the blast will not be able to escape the clutches of the law,” he added.
In a brief statement, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolence over the loss of lives in the blast and directed authorities concerned to extend the best medical facilities to those injured. He also sought a report on the incident from the Punjab government.