Suicide bomb attack reportedly targeted security guards at 11th-century site
A suicide bomber has killed at least 10 people and injured 24 outside Lahores Data Darbar, the largest Sufi shrine in south Asia, police in the Pakistani city said.
The attack, which has been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, took place at about 8.45am local time (4.15am GMT) on Wednesday outside the female entrance to the 11th-century shrine, which has been under heavy guard since it was attacked by terrorists in 2010.
The shells of burnt-out vehicles were scattered near the scene of the explosion. The area was quickly flooded with first responders and armed security personnel.
Muhammad Ashfaq, a senior police official, told a press conference that security personnel at the shrine were targeted.
Three police officials, two security guards and five civilians including a child were among the dead, Usman Buzdar, the chief minister of Punjab province, said.
Hundreds of pilgrims were in and around the shrine when the explosion took place, early in the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. At least 24 people were injured, Ashfaq said.
Pakistans prime minister, Imran Khan, condemned the attack.
A Pakistani Taliban faction claimed responsibility. This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police, said Abdul Aziz Yousafzai, spokesman for the Hizbul Ahrar militant group.
The accident and emergency ward at the Mayo hospital in Lahore was crowded after the blast, with the wounded and other people searching for loved ones.
Among them was Azra Bibi, whose son Muhammad Shahid cares for visitors shoes which must be removed before entering the shrine. He has been missing since the blast, she said.
They are not Muslims, she said, referring to the attackers. They even targeted worshippers.
Suicide bombers blew themselves up at the shrine in 2010, killing 50 people and injuring at least 200. Some Islamic extremists regard minority schools of Islam such as Sufism to be heretical.
Pakistan has cracked down on domestic extremist groups since the 2014 Peshawar school massacre, in which more than 150 people, mostly children, were killed.
Security has since improved but militants can still carry out dramatic attacks. An attack in Lahore in March last year left nine people dead, while a blast targeting Christians celebrating Easter in a park in 2016 killed more than 70 people.
Some analysts have argued that periodic crackdowns on violent extremist groups are inadequate unless the government is also willing to confront Islamic fundamentalists who target religious minorities, and whose support is courted by many political parties.
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