Police were 'prime target' in deadly blast near Lahore shrine

A police vehicle was badly damaged in blast near Data Darbar in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV

Data Darbar, one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia that dates back to the 11th century, has been targeted previously, in a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 people.

Lahore police chief Ghazanfar Ali said the bombing appeared to target police officers outside the shrine, known as Data Darbar, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried. The incident took place at 8:54am at the Gate 2 of the shrine. Television footage showed a number of damaged vehicles near the shrine. However, nature and exact target of the explosion hasn't been ascertained yet.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday asked Punjab government to provide complete assistance to the survivors and families of victims of Lahore suicide blast. More updates are awaited.

A rescue operation was immediately started and the injured and bodies were transferred to nearby Mayo Hospital.

"God willing, the security forces with the cooperation of whole nation will defeat these terrorists", he added.

A police investigation has been launched as access to the shrine has been blocked.

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Sufis have been attacked by hardline Sunni Muslim militants in the past.

Local media reported that it was a suicide attack, but there has been no official confirmation.

An attack in the city in March past year left nine people dead, while a major blast targeting Christians celebrating Easter in a park in 2016 killed more than 70 people.

"People should remain aware of their surroundings when going to pray", said a Punjab provincial minister, Mian Aslam.

Militant violence has declined sharply in Pakistan following a sustained crackdown in recent years and over the past two years Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, has been free of the kind of attacks that were once common.

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