Lahore police on Thursday confirmed that a powerful blast ripped through a crowded market where Indian commodities are sold in Pakistan's cultural capital here, killing at least two persons and wounding 28 others.
According to police, the blast took place near the Paan Mandi in the famous Anarkali market, where Indian commodities are sold.
Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Usman told reporters that two people were killed and 28 others injured in the blast claimed by a Baloch insurgent group.
"It was a high explosive device targeting a crowded place to ensure maximum casualties,” he said.
The explosive device went off at 1.45pm near the Paan Mandi when the market was crowded. Scores of people were wounded and videos on social media show that a few of them were lying in a pool of blood with severed limbs, police said.
A good number of motorcycles and vendors' stalls were also damaged in the blast that shattered windows of nearby shops and buildings.
The Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), one of several ethnic insurgent groups active in the mineral-rich southwestern Balochistan province - claimed responsibility for the blast.
"We accept the responsibility for targeting the bank in Anarkali Bazaar Lahore. This attack targeted bank employees. A detailed statement will be issued soon," BNA spokesman Mureed Baloch said in a tweet.
The BNA had earlier warned that it will target the financial institutions.
Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is home to a long-running violent insurgency. Baloch insurgent groups have previously carried out several attacks targeting China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in the region.
Earlier, Dawn newspaper quoted Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif as saying that three persons have died in the blast.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the blast and instructed authorities to provide the best medical facilities to the injured. He also sought a report from the Punjab government over the incident.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has directed the inspector general of police to submit a report on the incident. He also directed officials to provide the injured with the best possible medical facilities.
"This incident is aimed at sabotaging the atmosphere of law and order. Those responsible for the blast will not be able to escape the clutches of the law," he said.
Inspector General of Police (Punjab) Rao Sardar Khan said all resources will be used to nab those behind this blast. “Some suspects have been taken into custody after examining the CCTV footages,” he said, adding that police, intelligence and forensic agencies are working together.
"We are ascertaining the nature of the blast," Deputy Inspector General Police Operation Dr Mohammad Abid told reporters at the site of the blast near Lahore’s historic Walled City.
"The crater at the blast site indicated the possibility of a time device. However, at this stage we can't confirm this," he said.
According to the Rescue 1122, the injured have been shifted to the Mayo Hospital where two succumbed to their injuries.
Mayo Hospital medical superintendent Dr Iftikhar said two injured - Ramzan, 30 and Absar, 9 - succumbed to their injuries and the condition of four others is critical. He said the injured also included women.
Police cordoned off the area after the blast.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said that the enemy takes such steps to spread chaos and uncertainty in an effort to damage the economy.
Punjab's former chief minister and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif said that an incident of terrorism in Lahore, following one in Islamabad was not a good omen for the country.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of precious lives in a blast in Lahore's historical and lively area of Anarkali," he tweeted.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that a blast in an area like Anarkali was incredibly sad and disturbing.
"Three died and dozens injured in a bomb blast in Lahore today and guess what @ImranKhanPTI is talking about in his propaganda cell meeting? Sharifs ! What is next? Blaming the victims for the tragedy," she tweeted.
In June last year, three people were killed in a blast outside Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jauhar Town residence in the city. This month an anti-terrorism court handed down death sentence to four suspects on nine counts in the blast case.