LAHORE: A powerful bomb tore through the bustling old food street in the downtown Anarkali neighbourhood late Saturday night, killing three people and injuring 44 others, police and rescue workers said.
Lahore has been relatively peaceful in recent months, compared with the country’s other cities hit by sectarian, political and ethnic violence.
The bomb was planted under the deep-freezer of Husnain Cold Corner, located in front of New Bokhara restaurant, according to Chaudhry Shafeeq Gujjar, the capital city police officer (CCPO). However, he wouldn’t say whether it was a time bomb or a remotely-triggered device.
A Bomb Disposal Squad official said the bomb weighed five to six kilogrammes which left a huge crater at the site.
The blast damaged nearby shops in the food street where families were dining. Since it was Saturday night, the food street was abuzz with diners at the time of the blast.
After the explosion, the food street was littered with snapped electricity cables, broken glasses and damaged furniture.
“Three people have been killed in the blast,” senior health department official Hasan Iqbal said. Two of them were identified as Farhan Saleem, 18, and six-month-old Saadia. The third victim, who appears to be in his mid-30s, could not be immediately identified.
According to District Officer Rescue 1122 Dr Ahmad, 44 injured were being treated at Mayo Hospital, Sir Gangaram Hospital and Services Hospital. At least five of them are in a critical condition, he said.
Provincial Health Minister Tahir Khaleel Sindhu told journalists at the blast site that an emergency has been declared in Mayo Hospital, where most of the injured were being treated. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who also visited the site, denounced the ‘cowardly act’ and said that the perpetrators would be arrested soon.
Old Anarkali, famous for its eateries, is one of the most thickly populated and frequented areas of Lahore. A number of key official buildings, including the IGP office, are located in the neighbourhood.
Interestingly, there were no walkthrough gates or even a metal detector installed at the entrances to this bustling food street. Police claimed they had intelligence about possible security threats since last month. They added that a new strategy would be put in place to avoid such incidents during the holy month of Ramazan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2013.