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New Delhi: At least three people were killed and 20 others injured on Thursday in a powerful blast at the Paan Mandi in Lahore’s famous Anarkali market, where Indian commodities are sold.
Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif confirmed the death of three persons in the blast that shattered windows of nearby shops and buildings, Dawn newspaper reported.
According to the police, the blast took place near the Paan Mandi.
Reuters reported that a separatist group based in southwestern Balochistan province has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We are ascertaining the nature of blast. Over 20 people have been injured in blast and shifted to hospitals,” deputy inspector general of police operation Mohammad Abid told reporters at the site of the blast near Lahore’s historic Walled City.
According to news agency PTI, Abid did not rule out the possibility of a timed device that was placed in a motorcycle or somewhere near the market.
“The crater at the blast site indicated the possibility of a time device. However, at this stage we can’t confirm this,” he said.
The Counter Terrorism Department and Bomb Disposal Squad officials have reached the spot and are examining the nature of the blast, he said.
According to the Rescue 1122, the injured have been shifted to the Mayo Hospital where two succumbed to their injuries.
Mayo Hospital medical superintendent Dr Iftikhar said that two persons, including a boy, succumbed to their wounds. He said the condition of four injured brought to the hospital is critical.
Several motorcycles and vendors’ stalls were damaged in the blast.
The police have cordoned off the area. All of Anarkali Bazaar has been shut.
Baloch separatist group takes responsibility: Reuters
News agency Reuters said that a newly formed separatist group based in southwestern Balochistan province claimed responsibility in a text message sent to a its reporter.
It said a bank was the target of the attack. Police said they were investigating, saying it was premature to link this to Pakistan Super League (PSL) Twenty20 cricket tournament scheduled to start in a week or so.
“Baloch separatists have been fighting a low-key insurgency against the Pakistani government to demand a greater share in the local mineral rich resources,” Reuters said.
They usually attack government interests or Chinese projects in the province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, but an attack in a city like Lahore is rare.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing and urged authorities to provide the best possible medical facilities to those who were wounded. He sought a report from the Punjab government, according to Dawn.
The newspaper said that Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar condemned the blast. Those responsible for the act would be arrested and justice would be 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 said.
(With agency inputs)