LAHORE: At least 10 people including Traffic DIG Ahmed Mobin were killed and at least 83 others injured on Monday in an explosion near the Punjab Assembly in Lahore.
The incident occurred as hundreds of chemists were protesting nearby against a new regulatory law, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.
IG Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera said five police officers were among the dead.
"It was a suicide attack. The bomber exploded himself when successful negotiations were underway between police officials and the protesters," Sukhera told reporters.
SSP East Zahid Mehmood Gondal was also killed in the attack.
Up to 400 people had attended the protest, according to an AFP reporter who was on the scene when the explosion occurred. "Suddenly there was a bang and a huge blast," he said. "Everybody ran for safety."
Lahore put on terror alert
Police cordoned the blast site, while rescue workers moved the injured to nearby hospitals.
Social media users were quick to suggest that the blast was meant to derail plans to hold the highly-anticipated final of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore.
The second edition of the annual T20 tournament – like the first – is ongoing in the United Arab Emirates due to security concerns, but after the recent military crackdown on extremism, officials were confident enough to pick Gaddafi Stadium to host the final.
Political and military leaders including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, army chief General Qamar Bajwa, and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah condemned the incident.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has very strongly condemned the blast that occurred at Charing Cross Lahore.— PMLN (@pmln_org) February 13, 2017
Tragedy has struck Lahore. Alongside innocent civilians, we have lost 2 of our own brave Police officers Captain Mubeen & Zahid Gondal - PM— Punjab 2013-18 (@Punjab13to18) February 13, 2017
“We will continue this fight against the terrorists among us and will continue to fight it until we liberate our people of this cancer and avenge those who have laid down their lives for us,” the prime minister said in a statement. “We will not stop until we can call ourselves a free and secure people. That is a promise.”
Meanwhile, according to the ISPR, the army chief instructed the local commander and intelligence agencies to provide all necessary assistance to the civil administration in evacuating the injured and apprehending those responsible for the incident.
TTP claims responsibility
A spokesperson for Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group previously claimed responsibility for the March 2016 Easter bombing at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, which killed over 70 people.
Meanwhile, schools in the provincial capital will remain closed on Tuesday, All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association announced in a statement.