At least 26 people, including eight policemen, were killed and 57 others were injured in a suspected suicide blast near Arfa Karim IT Tower on Ferozepur Road in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday afternoon, the police said.
Superintendent of Police Imran Awan confirmed to Dawn newspaper that at least nine bodies have been recovered so far and shifted to the hospital, out of which three are policemen.
Awan added that an anti-encroachment drive by Lahore Development Authority was underway when the blast happened. Anti-riot police officials were deployed for the drive. Two vehicles, including a motorcycle, have been damaged.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the media that terrorism as the motive behind the explosion could not be ruled out. He added that security forces were carrying out an investigation into the incident.
The explosion took place in a busy locality close to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif's office. The identity of the deceased is yet to be ascertained.
The rescue 1122 teams have taken the injured to Jinnah Hospital, Lahore General Hospital and Ittefaq Hospital where emergency has been imposed, for medical treatment.
— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) July 24, 2017
Police officials and law enforcement personnel reached the spot and cordoned off the area of the blast. Forensic teams have begun collecting evidence to ascertain the nature of the explosion.
Politicians across parties, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have expressed grief over the incident. Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has also condemned the blast and condoled the loss of lives.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) wrote on Twitter: "While expressing deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the blast, the Prime Minister prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls and grant of courage to the bereaved families to bear this irreparable loss. The Prime Minister directed for extending best possible medical treatment for the injured and prayed for their swift recovery."
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned blast in Lahore. — PML(N) (@pmln_org) July 24, 2017
Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the incident. He wrote on Twitter: "No words can express the grief which grips my heart right now. Blast destroyed many families, but terrorists can never destroy our resolve.. Our blood was spilt on the street but I swear to my Allah that the blood of our innocent martyrs will write end of these cowardly assassins!"
COAS shares grief with victim families of Lhr blast. Directs for immediate rescue and relief efforts. Troops reached at site.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) July 24, 2017
Another cowardly, condemnable terrorist attack, this time in Lahore, killing innocent citizens. Prayers for the vics families & the injured. — Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 24, 2017
Sad, heart-wrenching news from Lahore. May Allah SWT protect Pakistan. Ameen
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) July 24, 2017
Reports state that the death toll in the incident is expected to rise.