At least eight people — five policemen and three civilians — were killed and 26 others injured in what officials described as a suicide bombing targeting an Elite Force van detailed to the security of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore on Wednesday.

King Edward Medical University Vice Chancellor Professor Khalid Gondal said the death toll has risen to nine (including a suspected attacker), while the condition of four of the injured is critical.

Some of the wounded have also been admitted to Mayo Hospital, where an emergency has been imposed. Prof Gondal added that seven bodies had been shifted to Mayo Hospital while two are at the morgue in King Edward Medical University.

Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Arif Nawaz confirmed that five Elite Force personnel were martyred in the blast.

How it happened

At 8:45am this morning, an explosion took place in the proximity of a police mobile parked near Data Darbar’s Gate 2, the entrance for female visitors to the shrine.

The impact of the blast shattered the windows in nearby vehicles and buildings, bystanders told DawnNewsTV.

Police officials believe the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The Punjab chief minister’s spokesperson, Shahbaz Gill, told reporters that the attacker was a 15-year-old boy. The teenager came out of a fruit shop, crossed over to the police van, and then exploded his suicide vest, Gill said.

An initial probe has revealed that the bomb contained seven kilograms of explosive material.

Television footage showed the husks of damaged vehicles littering the pavement near the shrine as first responders rushed to the scene, while security forces fanned out to launch a search operation and secure the area.

Police set up checkpoints on main thoroughfares leading to the shrine and hospitals have been placed on alert, officials told Reuters.

The shrine was immediately evacuated, with devotees moved out through exits away from the blast site. Entry to Data Darbar has since been restricted.

The site of the attack was cordoned off for rescue efforts and investigation.

A heavy contingent of police, Counter-Terrorism Department and forensic officials collected evidence from the site of the attack. The IGP said police would share their findings once they conclude their probe.

All regional police officers and city police officers have been directed to examine security arrangements in their respective areas and remain alert during the month of Ramazan.

Officials believe that today’s attack highlights a need for vigilance by people gathering for worship during Ramazan. “People should remain aware of their surroundings when going to pray,” suggested Punjab provincial minister Mian Aslam.

President and Prime Minister condemn the suicide attacks:

President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the suicide blast that shocked the nation claiming the lives of at least eight people, including three police officials.

Condemning the attack on the elite force, the premier also sought a detailed report on the incident and directed authorities to provide the injured with the best possible medical treatment.

Meanwhile, President Alvi deplored the coward act of the terrorist, saying that those involved in such acts in the holy month of Ramadan come off as misguided elements.