Blast kills at least 25, in­jures dozens in La­hore

Dozens more in­jured in veg­etable mar­ket ex­plo­sion

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

An ex­plo­sion killed at least 25 peo­ple and in­jured dozens in a busy veg­etable mar­ket in the Pak­istani city of La­hore yes­ter­day, of­fi­cials said, but the cause of the blast was not im­me­di­ately clear. The pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion hit a bustling main road in the south of La­hore and blew out win­dows in nearby build­ings. Ini­tial po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions sug­gested it might be a sui­cide bomb at­tack.

“Ap­par­ently, ac­cord­ing to our ini­tial find­ings, he was a sui­cide bomber, who used a mo­tor­cy­cle,” deputy chief of po­lice op­er­a­tions branch, Haider Ashraf told re­porters in La­hore. The city’s com­mis­sioner Ab­dul­lah Khan Sum­bul said the blast tar­geted po­lice. A spokesman for La­hore po­lice, Syed Ham­mad Shah, put the toll at 25 dead with 40 in­jured. Se­nior lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial Su­mair Ah­mad Syed con­firmed the death toll, though he put the num­ber of in­jured at 35.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press con­fer­ence held min­utes af­ter the blast that most of the ca­su­al­ties were po­lice of­fi­cers, but was un­able to con­firm the na­ture of the ex­plo­sion. Haider Ashraf told AFP that at least 10 po­lice of­fi­cers were among the dead. The area was busy with po­lice at the time be­cause of­fi­cers had been sent to the mar­ket to clear stalls that had il­le­gally spilt onto the road. Pro­vin­cial law min­is­ter Rana Sanaullah said the blast had ap­peared to tar­get the veg­etable mar­ket, which was crowded with shop­pers.

‘Deaf­en­ing blast’

Eye­wit­ness Sher Dil, who works at an of­fice close to the site of the ex­plo­sion, said it blew out the win­dows of his of­fice build­ing. “I was in my of­fice when it all hap­pened. It was a deaf­en­ing blast, which shook the en­tire Arfa Karim Tow­ers,” Dil told AFP. Pak­istan’s pres­i­dent, prime min­is­ter and army chief all is­sued state­ments ex­press­ing con­do­lences for the loss of life.

La­hore has been hit by sig­nif­i­cant mil­i­tant at­tacks in Pak­istan’s more than decade-long war on ex­trem­ism, but they have been less fre­quent in re­cent years. The last ma­jor blast in the city was in March last year, when 75 were killed and hun­dreds in­jured in a bomb tar­get­ing Chris­tians cel­e­brat­ing Easter Sun­day in a park. But the coun­try was hit by a wave of at­tacks in Fe­bru­ary this year, in­clud­ing a bomb that killed 14 peo­ple in La­hore.

In April a fur­ther seven were killed in an at­tack in the city tar­get­ing a team that was car­ry­ing out the coun­try’s long over­due cen­sus. Af­ter years of spi­ral­ing in­se­cu­rity, the pow­er­ful army launched a crack­down on mil­i­tancy in the wake of a bru­tal at­tack on a school in late 2014. More than 150 peo­ple, most of them chil­dren, died in the Tale­ban-led as­sault in the north­west­ern city of Pe­shawar-the coun­try’s dead­li­est ever sin­gle at­tack. It shook a coun­try al­ready grimly ac­cus­tomed to atroc­i­ties and prompted the mil­i­tary to step up an op­er­a­tion in the tribal ar­eas, where mil­i­tants had pre­vi­ously op­er­ated with im­punity. Ex­plo­sions caused by gas cylin­ders which are used for cook­ing as well as in cars-are also com­mon in Pak­istan. A blast in La­hore in Fe­bru­ary was ini­tially thought to be a mil­i­tant at­tack, but turned out to be a gas ex­plo­sion. Of­fi­cials have since been cau­tious about pre­ma­turely con­firm­ing the na­ture of ex­plo­sions. La­hore, a city of around six mil­lion, is Pak­istan’s cul­tural hub and the cap­i­tal of its most pow­er­ful prov­ince, Pun­jab.

LA­HORE: Pak­istani res­cue work­ers try to move the bod­ies of vic­tims at the site of an ex­plo­sion.

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