At least two people were killed and 22 injured on Thursday when a bomb exploded in a busy shopping district in Pakistan’s megacity of Lahore, police and officials said.
The attack was claimed on Twitter by a spokesperson for the Baloch Nationalist Army, one of several ethnic separatist groups that have waged an insurgency for years in southwestern Pakistan.
“Initial investigations show that it was a timed device on a motorcycle that caused the explosion,” Rana Arif, spokesperson for the Lahore police, told AFP.
Thursday’s blast occurred in the busy shopping district of Anarkali in Old Lahore, damaging several motorbikes and toppling market stalls.
Officials said a nine-year-old child was among those killed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed regret for “the loss of precious human life”, a spokesman for his office said.
On Twitter, a spokesperson for the Baloch Nationalist Army said she was responsible.
“This attack targeted bank employees. A detailed statement will be released soon,” the tweet read.
Mineral-rich Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million people have long complained that they are not getting a fair share of its wealth gas and minerals.
China is investing in the region under a $54 billion project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), improving infrastructure, power and transport links between its far western region of Xinjiang and the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
Baloch separatists have previously claimed responsibility for several attacks on CPEC projects, and thousands of Pakistani security personnel are deployed in the area to counter the violence.
Pakistan has suffered a series of explosions and attacks on police since December, when a truce between the government and the Pakistani Taliban expired.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a grassroots movement that shares common roots with the Afghan Taliban – has claimed responsibility for the most recent attacks.
The TTP said earlier this week it was responsible for a fatal shooting in Islamabad on Monday night – a rare attack by militants in the heavily guarded capital.
A police officer was killed and two others injured when two TTP gunmen opened fire from a motorbike at a police checkpoint.
Police said the two assailants had been killed and Pakistan’s interior minister later warned of the possibility of further violence.
The Pakistani government announced late last year that it had reached a month-long truce with the TTP, facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, but which expired on December 9 after peace talks broke down.
The TTP was blamed for hundreds of suicide bombings and kidnappings across the country, and for a time dominated large swaths of the country’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical version of the Islamic law.
But after the massacre of nearly 150 children at a school in Peshawar in 2014, the Pakistani army sent large numbers of troops into TTP strongholds and crushed the movement, forcing its fighters to retreat to Afghanistan. (AFP)