A powerful bomb has exploded near security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 10 people and wounding 20 others.
- Police “doing routine duty” outside a busy shrine appear to have been the targets of the bombing
- Officials are still determining the nature of the attack but say it could have been a suicide bombing
- Pakistanis visit the shrine in large numbers
Hizbul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on the shrine which is known as Data Darbar, saying their target was the police.
“This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police,” a spokesman for the militant group said.
TV footage showed a badly damaged police vehicle that authorities said was the target.
Lahore police chief Ghazanfar Ali said five police officers and five passers-by were killed in the attack, adding that the toll could rise as some of the wounded were in a critical condition.
Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, the governor of Punjab province, told reporters that those who carried out the attack were the “enemy of Islam and humanity”.
“God willing, the security forces with the cooperation of whole nation will defeat these terrorists,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing.
Police put up checkpoints on main thoroughfares leading to the shrine and hospitals were placed on alert, officials said.
Militant violence has declined sharply in Pakistan following a sustained crackdown in recent years and over the past two years Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, has been free of the kind of attacks that were once common.
However, officials warned that the attack highlighted the need for vigilance by people gathering for worship during Ramadan.
“People should remain aware of their surroundings when going to pray,” Punjab provincial minister Mian Aslam said.
Sufism refers to a mystical strain of Islam that often involves reverence for local holy figures and shrines. Sunni extremists view Sufism with hostility and have carried out attacks on Sufi celebrations and shrines across the Muslim world.
Pakistanis in large numbers visit the shrine, where a pair of suicide attacks in 2010 killed and wounded dozens of people.