LAHORE, Dawn): At least five people were killed and 50 others, including women, were injured when an explosion occurred at an eatery situated in Old Anarkali’s food street area of Lahore on Saturday, DawnNews reported.
Police identified two of the dead as a six-year-old girl named Sadia and a 20-year-old boy named Fahad Tasleem.
The condition of eight injured persons is said to be critical.
The Punjab government announced compensation for all the victims and their family members.
The Punjab capital had so far remained immune to the wave of bombings that has terrorised the three other provincial headquarters over the past four years. Observers found the timing of the attack — exactly one month after the PML-N government came to power — intriguing. Television channels quoted the provincial police chief as having told his force to be on alert as “more acts of terror” could follow “within 72 hours”.
Preliminary police inquiries suggested that a time device had been placed between chairs near Bokhara Restaurant. It created a one-foot deep crater when it exploded.
Mostly lower middle class families dine in the open at one of the oldest food spots of the city on weekends.
Witnesses and police said the street was almost packed to capacity when the device went off. The diners started crying and running here and there in utter confusion.
The blast was so intense that it damaged some cars and motorcycles parked on nearby roads and also an electricity transformer. Some shops were damaged. It left tables, chairs and other articles of furniture scattered all over the place. Shopkeepers closed their shops soon after the blast. Policemen and officials of other law enforcement agencies in large numbers cordoned off the place and both ends of the food street. Footages from CCTVs installed at some shops were obtained by police to identify the culprits.
The blast occurred in a high security zone which is home to government offices, including the Central Police Office.
An extensive search operation was conducted in the area a few days ago.
Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafique Ahmad told Dawn that an explosive device weighing about 500 grams and hidden in a shopper bag was apparently used in the blast.
Rescue 1122 spokesman Jam Sajjad Hussain said 26 of the injured were taken to Mayo Hospital, five to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and as many were admitted to the Services Hospital.
DIG (Investigation) Zulfiqar Hameed said that apparently the target was ordinary people dining at restaurants.
He said the explosion a crater five to six inch deep, adding that police investigators and bomb disposal squad officials were gathering evidence and recording witness accounts.
Police had not determined the nature of the explosives.
CCPO Ahmed said that anti-state elements were involved in such incidents and that they wanted to sow fear among people and create an anarchic situation.
The culprits would be captured and dealt with iron hands, he claimed.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Mian Muhmmad Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Jamaat-i-Islaami (JI) chief Syed Munawar Hassan and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain, among other leaders, strongly condemned the blast.
Moreover, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah called for the immediate arrest of the culprits responsible for the attack.