By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA): At least six people, including four army troops, were killed and 17 injured in a suicide blast in the northeastern Lahore city of Punjab on Wednesday, police and local media reported.
The bomber, according to the police, struck a vehicle carrying census officers.
Malik Ahmed Khan, a spokesman of the state government of Punjab, confirmed to reporters the attack was carried out by a lone suicide bomber, who targeted the census team. The army troops were providing security to the officers.
According to the counter-terrorism department of Punjab police, the bomber blew himself up near the van, whereas local TV channels quoting security officials and eyewitnesses, reported the bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorbike into the vehicle.
The Jamat-ul-Ahrar terror group, a splinter faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to local Geo TV, the severed head and other body parts of the suspected suicide bomber have been found at the scene.
The explosion led to a huge fire that engulfed several vehicles parked on the site, apart from injuring several passersby, four of them critically.
Both the government and the army said the terrorist attack could not deter the ongoing census process.
President Mamnoon Hussain, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have condemned the suicide blast, vowing to continue the fight against terrorism.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered the troops to continue the census process, state-run Pakistan Television reported.
Wednesday’s incident is the second terrorist attack in Lahore, the country’s commercial capital in less than two months.
On Feb. 16, a suicide attack at a demonstration near the Punjab state assembly killed 13 people, including two senior police officials and injured more than 80 others. Jamat-ul-Ahrar had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Pakistan army has recently launched a countrywide anti-terrorism operation — an extension of an earlier onslaught in 2014 — hoping to eliminate the TTP and its allies, which have apparently managed to regroup and resume terrorist attacks in recent months.
Over 100 people were killed and around 400 injured in a series of terrorist attacks across the country in February.
Pakistan blames terrorists reportedly based in neighboring Afghanistan for the ongoing wave of terrorism. Kabul, however, denies the charge, and itself accuses Islamabad of patronizing Afghan Taliban, who have carried out numerous brazen attacks on government and NATO forces in the war-stricken countries in recent years.
[Archive photo: Relatives mourn after suicide bomb in Lahore killing 69 injuring 300 on 27 March 2016 Gulshan e Iqbal Park. Photographer: Rana Irfan Ali/AA]