NEW DELHI: At least sixteen people, including two top cops, were killed and several others injured in an explosion on Monday when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a protest rally outside the Punjab Assembly building in eastern Pakistan, police officials said.
Lahore Traffic Police chief capt (R) Ahmed Mobeen, Senior Superintendent Police Zahid Gondal and DSP Pervez Butt were killed in the blast, multiple media reports said.
Lahore police chief Amin Wains confirmed death of Mobeen but could not confirm about other casualties.
At least 16 people were killed in the powerful blast that ripped through the protest rally, police officials said.
Punjab Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique said more than 60 people suffered injuries. The condition of some 11 injured is stated to be critical, the minister said.
DIG Mobeen had survived an attempt to his life during his posting in Balochistan.
A Lahore police officer told PTI that apparently it was a suicide attack and the bomber targeted the police personnel present there. “The target was not the protest demonstration but the police officers,” he added.
The blast occurred minutes after Mobeen arrived at the scene to negotiate with the chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers who had been protesting outside the assembly.
A TV footage shows that a motorcyclist dragging his bike close to police officers and blew himself up. Mobeen is seen in the footage negotiating with the protesters.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanullah confirmed that it was suicide blast and ‘some police officers’ have been killed.
He said the agencies had issued a threat alert that terrorists might target Punjab Assembly building and Governor’s House on the Mall Road.
“We have provided security to these venues. Had no demonstration taken place outside the PA building this incident might not have taken place,” he said.
The blast was so powerful that it was heard several kilometers from the place of occurrence.
“The chemists were protesting against the controversial drug regulations the government has recently imposed. Several protesters were lying on the road before the rescuers shifted them,” said Ishtiaq Ahmed, a representative of the Lahore Chemist Association.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. The group had also claimed responsibility for an Easter Day bombing in Lahore last year that killed more than 70 people in a public park .