At least 16 people were killed and 53 more injured when a suspected suicide bomber set off his explosives during a protest outside the Punjab Assembly on the main thoroughfare of the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday evening.
The blast occurred as a large number of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers were staging a demonstration against a new drug control act on the Mall Road, where several key government buildings are located. It was not clear if the protest was the target of the blast.
The media reported that the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Lahore’s traffic police chief Ahmad Mobin and two other senior police officials were among the dead, authorities said.
Drone camera footage aired on Samaa TV channel showed a powerful blast shortly after a man approached a group of protesters on the Mall Road. “Apparently it was a suicide blast, but police are still investigating to know the exact nature of the blast,” Punjab police spokesperson Nayab Haider told local media.
The blast shattered windows of nearby buildings and some cars caught fire. Ambulances and fire tenders rushed to the scene as contingents of soldiers and paramilitary Pakistan Rangers were deployed. The injured were taken to Mayo Hospital and Ganga Ram Hospital.
An Easter Day bombing in Lahore last year killed more than 70 people in a public park. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar had also claimed responsibility for that attack.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, a roadside bomb killed two members of bomb disposal squad on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta, said police officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema. Another eight people were wounded, he said. A Taliban-linked group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, said it planted the bomb.
(With AP input)