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Explosion shakes Lahore; 3 killed

LAHORE, July 6: Two young men and a six-year-old girl were killed and 44 others suffered injuries in a bomb explosion at the crowded Old Anarkali Food Street on Saturday evening.

Police identified two of the dead as six-year-old Sadia and 20-year-old Fahad Tasleem. Twenty-eight of the injured were in a critical state at hospitals.

The Punjab capital had so far remained immune to the wave of bombings that has terrorised the three other provincial headquarters over the past four years. Observers found the timing of the attack — exactly one month after the PML-N government came to power — intriguing. Television channels quoted the provincial police chief as having told his force to be on alert as “more acts of terror” could follow “within 72 hours”.

Preliminary police inquiries suggested that a time device had been placed between chairs near Bokhara Restaurant. It created a one-foot deep crater when it exploded.

Mostly lower middle class families dine in the open at one of the oldest food spots of the city on weekends.

Witnesses and police said the street was almost packed to capacity when the device went off. The diners started crying and running here and there in utter confusion.

The blast was so intense that it damaged some cars and motorcycles parked on nearby roads and also an electricity transformer. Some shops were damaged. It left tables, chairs and other articles of furniture scattered all over the place. Shopkeepers closed their shops soon after the blast. Policemen and officials of other law enforcement agencies in large numbers cordoned off the place and both ends of the food street. Footages from CCTVs installed at some shops were obtained by police to identify the culprits.

The blast occurred in a high security zone which is home to government offices, including the Central Police Office.

An extensive search operation was conducted in the area a few days ago.

Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafique Ahmad told Dawn that an explosive device weighing about 500 grams and hidden in a shopper bag was apparently used in the blast.

Rescue 1122 spokesman Jam Sajjad Hussain said 26 of the injured were taken to Mayo Hospital, five to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and as many were admitted to the Services Hospital.

DIG (Investigation) Zulfiqar Hameed said that apparently the target was ordinary people dining at restaurants.

He said the explosion a crater five to six inch deep, adding that police investigators and bomb disposal squad officials were gathering evidence and recording witness accounts.

Poice had not determined the nature of the explosives.

CCPO Ahmed said that anti-state elements were involved in such incidents and that they wanted to sow fear among people and create an anarchic situation.

The culprits would be captured and dealt with iron hands, he claimed.