Blast hits Lahore Defence area market

At least seven people were killed and 17 wounded in a bomb blast at a market in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, government officials said.

The bombing ripped through a building that was under construction at a commercial market in the affluent Defence area, replete with upmarket boutiques and cafes as well as an academy for the international hair salon Toni & Guy.

"It was a bomb attack," Nayab Haider, a spokesman for the provincial Punjab police said. "It was a planted explosive device. We do not yet know if it was a timed device or remote detonated."

No group has immediately claimed the attack.

Television footage showed a smouldering building and several crumpled cars with their windows blown out.

"My God, my God, I saw so many bodies," Imtiaz Ali, a barber in the Toni & Guy salon, told the AFP news agency. "When I came out I first just saw smoke and dust ... Bikes upturned. Cars destroyed. My own colleague's car windows blown out. My clients' cars blown out. I was close to fainting."


According to police, 20kg of explosives were planted at the market.

Rescue official Rizwan Naseer told reporters: "Rescue operations have been completed, and all the wounded and killed have been taken to hospital. We suspect there may be one or two more bodies trapped under the rubble, which we are still investigating."

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder said the area was busy at the time of attack.

Reports of a second blast in the Gulberg area were later retracted by government officials, who said that a tyre blowout caused the loud sound.

Since mid-February, various armed groups have killed at least 130 people across the country and wounded hundreds more.

On February 17, Pakistan suffered the deadliest attack in more than two years as a suicide bomber killed at least 88 people and injured hundreds at a Sufi shrine. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) said it was behind that attack.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban-linked armed group, claimed responsibility for last Monday's suicide attack targeting police at a protest rally in central Lahore. At least 13 people died in the blast.

Military response

Government and military officials have vowed extensive operations to hunt down fighters across the country and Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has been shut down due to security concerns.

After the shrine bombing, Pakistani security forces said they had killed more than 100 suspected fighters in targeted campaigns across the country.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's army announced that it was launching a new military operation in response to recent violence.

Dubbed Radd-al-Fasaad, the operation by paramilitary forces in Punjab focuses on counterterrorism.

The Punjab is Pakistan's most populous province, with Lahore its capital.

The operation aims to provide "more effective border security", a military statement said.

The army has pursued a series of operations in the country's tribal areas over the past 15 years.

Zarb-e-Azb, the latest, was launched in 2014 to target the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in North Waziristan, the group's headquarters.

Last year North Waziristan was declared cleared of armed groups, but intelligence-based operations under the banner of Zarb-e-Azb continued across Pakistan.

Radd-al-Fasaad marks the first time the military has formally announced a security operation in Pakistan's most populous province, which is also the political heartland of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The operation gives policing powers to the paramilitary Rangers force when pursuing suspects.



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