LAHORE • A bomb targeting Pakistani police outside a major Sufi shrine in the city of Lahore yesterday killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 20.
The blast, occurring a day after the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, went off at a police checkpoint near the Data Darbar, one of the largest Muslim shrines in South Asia, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year.
"The police were the prime target in this attack. We are collecting forensic evidence to ascertain the nature of the blast," said Mr Ashfaq Khan, deputy inspector-general of police operations in Lahore.
A police spokesman put the death toll yesterday at 10 - six civilians and four police. At least 23 people were wounded.
The city's rescue services spokesman, Mr Muhammad Farooq, said at least seven of the wounded were in critical condition. Police set up checkpoints on main roads leading to the shrine and hospitals were placed on alert, officials said.
The attack was claimed by Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taleban, a movement that has been fighting the government for years. In a statement, the group said the attack targeted police and had been timed to avoid civilian casualties. "This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police," said Mr Abdul Aziz Yousafzai, a spokesman for the militant group.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement condemning the attack and asking the provincial government to help the victims.
Sufis, who follow a mystical form of Islam that has been practised in South Asia for centuries, have been regularly attacked by hard-line Sunni Muslim militants in the past. In 2010, two suicide bombers struck the Data Darbar Sufi shrine, killing 42 people and wounding 175, in an attack officials said was carried out by the Pakistani Taleban.