LAHORE: At least eight people were killed and dozens injured in an apparent attack on Lahore's police headquarters on Tuesday, hospital sources told Dawn. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The spokesperson for the Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the banned TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told Dawn that the attack was carried out by the splinter group.
The blast took place near the main gate of Police Lines in Lahore's Qila Gujjar Singh area. According to preliminary reports, it took place in a vehicle parked in the area, however, there are some unverified reports that it was carried out by a suicide bomber.
Huge plumes of smoke were visible in the air in the heavily populated area which was quickly cordoned off by security personnel.
Several vehicles parked near the site of the blast caught fire and window panes in nearby buildings were also shattered.
A police Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) was among those killed in the attack while the wounded also included a policewoman, according to police sources.
Inspector General Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera told media representatives that the target of the attack was police lines but chances are that the bomber may have been searched on his way inside so he exploded himself prematurely.
He added that, "Ever since operation Zarb-i-Azb began the army has been taking action against militants... and this was perhaps in reaction to that. We will examine CCTV footage to get more details on the attacker."
He further said that 5-8 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.
Khawaja Salman Rafique, the Punjab government's adviser on health, confirmed that four people had died while 23 others were wounded in the blast. He added that the condition of one injured was reported as critical.
Giving a breakup of the patients, he said that six patients were admitted in Mayo Hospital, 13 in Ganga Ram Hospital and four others were brought to the Services Hospital.
Lahore DCO retired Capt Muhammad Usman told Dawn that the wounded also included women and a child.
DIG Operations Haider Ashraf told Dawn that it appeared that the explosion was a suicide blast. Initial investigation revealed that ball bearings were used in the bomb.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Amin Wains told media persons that the blast was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber.
He added that the target of the attack was the Police Lines but the security measures forced the bomber to detonate his explosives prematurely.
Eye-witnesses said gunshots were heard from inside the Police Lines, however security personnel have said that the shots were only fired by members of the law enforcement agencies after the blast.
Emergency was imposed in hospitals across Lahore and injured were being shifted to the Mayo and Ganga Ram hospitals in the provincial capital.
The site of the explosion lies close to the headquarters of Pakistan Railways.
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan strongly condemned the bomb blast.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also condemned the explosion and sought a report over the incident.
Police in Lahore submitted a preliminary report on the Lines attack to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The report said police attempted to prevent the attacker from entering Lines. It added that six-eight kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.
FIR registered over attack
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered over the attack at the Qila Gujjar police station.
Today’s explosion comes nearly three months after a massive bombing near the Wagah border claimed over 60 lives in Lahore. The bombing at Wagah was followed by the terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in December which claimed over 140 lives — with most of the victims being children and students at the institution.
The Dec 16 attack resulted in the formulation of a National Action Plan to counter terrorism which also saw a parliamentary consensus on the formation of military courts in the country as well as renewed resolve to counter religious extremism by cracking down on terror financing and regulating madrassahs. The government also rolled back the moratorium on capital punishment following which a number of convicted terrorists have been hanged in jails across the country.
Since the government set the NAP rolling, the country has seen a number of terrorist attacks — the major ones being attacks on imambargahs in Rawalpindi, Shikarpur and Peshawar.