At least nine people were killed by a blast targeting a security checkpoint outside a major Sufi shrine in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on May 8, officials said.
The blast, one day after the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, took place close to the Data Darbar, one of the largest shrines in South Asia, which was cordoned off by security forces.
“Police was the prime target in this attack. We are collecting forensic pieces of evidence to ascertain the nature of the blast. This attack has left nine dead and 24 injured,” said Ashfaq Khan, deputy inspector general of police operations in Lahore.
Many people were wounded and Muhammad Farooq, a spokesman for the city’s rescue services, said at least seven or eight of them were in critical condition.
*BLAST IN LAHORE*
— Arshid Bhat (@ArshidB41052297) May 8, 2019
Sufis, who follow a mystical form of Islam that has been practiced in Pakistan for centuries, have been attacked by hardline Islamic terrorists in the past but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Sunni extremists view Sufism with hostility and have carried out attacks on Sufi celebrations and shrines across the Muslim world, The Associated Press reported.
Police put up checkpoints on main thoroughfares leading to the shrine and hospitals were placed on alert, officials said.
Militant violence has declined sharply in Pakistan following a sustained crackdown in recent years and over the past two years Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, has been free of the kind of attacks that were once common.
However, officials warned that the attack highlighted the need for vigilance by people gathering for worship during Ramadan.
“People should remain aware of their surroundings when going to pray,” said Punjab provincial minister Mian Aslam.
Khan said authorities had maintained a general security alert but there had been no specific warning about a threat to the Data Darbar, which attracts large numbers of visitors every year.
TV footage showed a badly damaged police vehicle that authorities said was the target.
“It seems police officers who were doing their routine duty outside the Data Darbar shrine were the target,” Lahore police chief Ghazanfar Ali said, adding that some pilgrims and passers-by were among those wounded. He said the death toll could rise as some of the victims are in critical condition.
Raja Basharat, a senior provincial minister in the Punjab government, said police were still trying to determine the nature of the attack, which might have been a suicide bombing. Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing.
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) May 8, 2019
Pakistanis in large numbers visit the shrine, where a pair of suicide attacks in 2010 killed and wounded dozens of people.
Lahore is the capital of eastern Punjab province, which has seen similar attacks in recent years.
4 dead, 18 injured in an explosion near Sufi shrine in #Pakistan‘s #Lahore .#WednesdayWisdom #LahoreBlast #bucciovertimechallenge #stlblues#LahoreBlast #DataDarbar #Blast #Police #KotLakhpatJail #Kashmir #Liverpool pic.twitter.com/KnV4EdpfYe
— aarifkhan (@aarifmdkhan164) May 8, 2019
At least six people have been killed and many injured in an explosion outside a major Sufi Muslim shrine in the #Pakistan city of #Lahore,where a police vehicle had been a target.
The blast occurred near the Data Darbar Sufi shrine, one of the oldest Muslim shrines in South Asia. pic.twitter.com/OU225555lR
— MDWLive! News (@MDWLiveFeed) May 8, 2019