Nine dead in explosion targeting Elite Force vehicle near Data Darbar Lahore's

A police vehicle badly damaged in the blast near Data Darbar in Lahore. — Photo courtesy Punjab Police

At least nine people — five policemen and three civilians — were killed and 26 others injured in what officials described as a suicide bombing targeting an Elite Force van detailed to the security of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore.

The blast took place at 8:45am in the proximity of the police mobile, which was parked near Gate 2 of Data Darbar, one of the country’s most visited shrines.

Police officials said they suspect the blast was a suicide attack and that the police mobile was the target.

An initial probe has revealed that the bomb contained seven kilograms of explosive material.

Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Arif Nawaz confirmed that five Elite Force personnel were martyred in the blast. Three civilians also lost their lives in the attack.

He told reporters that the attack “100 per cent targeted police”, noting that police are posted near the shrine around the clock to provide security.

The IGP said the attacker could have caused more damage because of the direction he had approached from, but he made a beeline for the police car stationed in the area for protection of the shrine.

The wounded have been shifted to Mayo Hospital, where an emergency has been imposed. Punjab Health Secretary Saqib Zafar is also at the hospital.

According to media, of the 26 injured, five are in critical condition, while four are being operated on.

A rescue operation was conducted in the area before it was cordoned off for investigation. The shrine was evacuated, with devotees moved out through exits away from the blast site. Entry to Data Darbar has since been restricted.

A heavy contingent of police, Counter-Terrorism Department and forensic officials are collecting evidence from the site of the attack. The IGP said police will share their findings once they conclude their probe.

All regional police officers and city police officers have been directed to examine security in their respective areas and remain alert during the month of Ramazan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the loss of lives in the attack, expressing grief and condoling with the victims’ families for their loss.

According to the DIG Operations Lahore, 306 police officials in the city have so far lost their lives in the line of duty.

Buzdar orders inquiry

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar condemned the attack and ordered an inquiry into the incident, summoning reports from the Punjab Inspector General of Police and the additional chief secretary of interior, according to a handout issued by the Punjab government.

The chief minister also called a high-level meeting at the Punjab Safe City Headquarters and cancelled his scheduled visits to Bhakkar, Sargodha and Sheikhupura.

He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and instructed administrations to provide the injured with the best facilities for treatment.