7 killed, 19 injured in Lahore blast targeting census team

7 killed, 19 injured in Lahore blast targeting census team

7 killed, 19 injured in Lahore blast targeting census team
At least seven people, including five Pakistani soldiers, were killed and 19 others injured today when a Taliban suicide bomber targeted army men escorting a census team here, the latest in a series of bombings that have rocked the country.

The suicide bomber, who appeared to be Uzbek, came close to a van carrying army personnel on Baidian Road at 7:45 AM and blew himself up, according to a Lahore police report submitted to Punjab Province Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The army team had reached there to carry out census activity.

"It appears that the suicide bomber aged between 22 and 24 was present there...and he had knowledge about the arrival of the census team," the report said. The injured driver Muhammad Usman has been taken into custody for investigation to ascertain as to why he stopped the van at a particular point, it said.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. Police said that the suicide bomber appeared to be an Uzbek. "The suicide bomber appears to be an Uzbek who was likely to enter here from Afghanistan," the police report said.

Following the attack, security has been put on high alert in Lahore. Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Khan also confirmed that it was suicide attack on the army personnel. He said five soldiers were among seven dead. Officials said 19 others were injured in the attack.

Injured have been shifted to the combined military hospital (CMH) and the General Hospital Lahore where the condition of three was said to be critical. The army personnel have been taking part in the ongoing census in the country which is scheduled to be concluded in September this year. A Lahore police source told PTI that the young suicide bomber came near the army vehicle on foot and then blew himself up.

"The severed head of the suicide bomber has been found. It appears that some eight to 10 kilogrammes explosives were used," the source said. An official of Pakistan Air Force, who was passing by along with his wife and son on a motorcycle at the time of blast, was also among the dead. His wife and minor son suffered injuries and are beiung treated at the General Hospital, the source said.

An eyewitness, Taimur Shahid, said he was heading to a shop near the blast site to get groceries when he heard a loud bang metres away. "I moved to the blast site and saw a number of soldiers lying in a pool of blood. The locals moved them to a nearby hospital. Later, rescue and army personnel reached the spot and cordoned off the area," he said.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said terrorism in Pakistan could not end till the terror camps of Jammat-ul-Ahrar and other terror groups are not eliminated in Afghanistan. An FIR has been registered against three unidentified terrorists on the complaint of an inspector of the Counter Terrorism Department Punjab police. Meanwhile, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in a statement said, the soldiers and civil enumerators who were killed were on census duty and it was a "great sacrifice".

He asserted that the census will be completed at any cost. "These sacrifices will only strengthen our resolve and with the support of entire nation, we will cleanse the menace of terrorism from our soil. The operation against terrorists will continue across the country," he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condoled the loss of lives in the blast. He directed the authorities concerned to extend all requisite assistance to the provincial government. Lahore has been on edge since a wave of violent attacks across the country in February killed 130 people. The attacks included a bomb blast in on February 13, which killed 14 people in an assault claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a faction of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Ten days later a fresh blast sent panic through the city when it killed eight people, though officials later said it was a gas leak, not an attack as initially feared. Today's explosion came days after at least 22 people were killed and 57 wounded last week, when a car bomb ripped through a market in a mainly Shia area of Parachinar, Kurram Agency.