LAHORE: At least eight people were killed and more than 21 injured when an explosion ripped through a restaurant in Defence area of the Punjab capital, ARY News reported.
The explosion took place in the particularly affluent Defence Housing Authority suburb of the city, replete with upscale boutiques and cafes as well as an academy for the international hair salon.
Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said cause of the blast couldn’t be determined as yet, but confirmed that at least eight persons lost their lives in the explosion at an eatery in Block Z of Defence.
The minister said the incident could be an act of terror, but at the same time added that it may also be an incident, hence “both circumstances cannot be ruled out”. Lahore’s mayor Captain (r) Mubashir Javed Malik says the explosion occurred in an under-construction building.
Sanaullah said that obstacles were being created to sabotage and prevent the final of the Pakistan Super Leaguefrom taking place in Lahore on March 5.
DIG Operations Punjab Dr. Haider Ashraf while speaking to ARY News said that their priority is to collect evidence to determine the cause of the incident. He said the area has been cordoned off and even nearby buildings have been evacuated over security concerns.
He said that several injured had said that they smelled suspicious chemical in the restaurant, and it was possible that the incident could be a gas explosion.
Minister rules out reports of second explosion
As law enforcement agencies were investigating the blast that hit a restaurant in DHA, reports emerged that second explosion was heard in the area of Gulberg.
It was reported that blast occurred outside a foreign eatery, but Law Minister and police officials were quick to dismiss the reports
Rana Sanaullah said: “I am not aware of any explosion in Gulberg, while police have also denied such reports.”
About the first blast, Sanaullah said law enforcement agencies were investigation the foul play and would shortly share their initial findings.
The explosion was so strong that it shattered windowpane of the vehicles parked outside while it also damaged windows of nearby buildings.
Clarification on Lahore Y block blast: It’s a generator blast and rescue team has reached the site. Please spread this.
— Govt Of The Punjab (@GovtOfPunjab) February 23, 2017
Majority of the injured have been taken to General Hospital. Rescue sources informed that eight of the injured persons were in critical condition. Army personnel also arrived at the spot and taken charge of the security at the spot.
It came a day after the military announced the launch of a nationwide anti-terrorist operation in the wake of a series of bloody assaults that have killed more than 130 people in the past two weeks.
The operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual and latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders.
Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security / Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) will continue to actively participate / intimately support the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.
Pakistan has accused Afghanistan of harbouring the militants who have carried out the attacks.
“The enemy is taking advantage of the turmoil in Afghanistan to launch terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s soil,” a foreign office spokesman told reporters at a regular press briefing Thursday as he condemned the attacks.
PSL final in jeopardy?
Pakistan Army on Wednesday reaffirmed to foil enemy’s plot of disrupting the Pakistan Super League final in Lahore on March 5. The Pakistan Cricket Board earlier this week also announced to hold the event final come what may in the Punjab capital, but repeated terror incidents stirred up security debate once again.
On 13 February 2017, a suicide bombing took place on the Mall Road in Lahore, where a group of chemists and pharmacists were holding a protest at Charing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly. At least 15 people were killed including several police officials, and at least 87 were injured.
After a gap of 10 days, another blast struck a restaurant in Lahore’s DHA area killing at least seven persons today.