A suicide attacker killed seven people — including five soldiers — and injured 19 others when he blew himself up near a vehicle carrying soldiers escorting census workers in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday.
The incident occurred at Bedian Road on the outskirts of the city at 8am. The bomber targeted a private van engaged by the Lahore cantonment board that was carrying the soldiers.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. Rana Sanaullah, the law minister for Punjab province, confirmed it was a terrorist attack. Police said the attacker appeared to be an Uzbek.
Government spokesman Malik Muhammad Khan said five soldiers were among the dead. An official of the Pakistan Air Force, who was passing by on a motorcycle, was also killed.
The injured driver of the van, Muhammad Usman, was taken into custody to ascertain why he stopped the vehicle at a particular spot, a police report said.
Security forces cordoned the Bedian Road area after the blast as rescue teams took the injured to the General Hospital and Combined Military Hospital.
Police said law enforcement agencies searched the area and collected the body parts of the attacker, including his severed head.
This is the first time a census team has been targeted by the Taliban. In March, Pakistan started its first national census exercise in almost two decades, and the process has been peaceful till now. The army has been mobilised to protect the census workers.
In the past, the Taliban and its allies have attacked polio vaccination teams.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said, despite the attack, the census will be completed “at any cost”.
“Conducting the census is a national obligation. The sacrifice of precious lives of civil enumerators and soldiers is beyond any doubt a great sacrifice. The conducting of the census will be completed at any cost,” Bajwa was quoted as saying by the military’s media wing.