Police in Pakistan’s second-largest city, Lahore, said Thursday a bomb explosion in a busy central marketplace had killed at least two people and injured at least 29 others.
A spokesman for the so-called Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), one of several outlawed ethnic separatist militant groups active in mineral-rich southwestern Baluchistan province, took responsibility for the attack.
The blast, caused by a planted device, happened in the eastern city’s famous Anarkali bazaar, which is known for selling Indian goods, according to an official statement quoting Abid Khan, a deputy police inspector general in Lahore.
"Investigations are ongoing, but it is premature to speculate on where the explosive device was planted," Khan said.
Earlier media reports quoted authorities as saying the bomb was attached to a motorcycle.
In video taken at the scene, clothing and wreckage from a motorcycle can be seen on the ground as well as damaged store fronts. People can also be seen attempting to help the wounded.
The injured were transported to a nearby hospital where some of them were reportedly listed in critical condition. Officials said a 9-year-old child was one of those killed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed regret over the ‘loss of precious human lives,’ his office said.
’This attack targeted bank employees. A detailed statement will be issued soon," wrote a BNA spokesman wrote on Twitter. The veracity of BNA’s claim of responsibility could not be independently verified.
Pakistan has experienced a surge in deadly militant attacks across the country in recent weeks, mostly claimed by the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.
A month-long cease-fire between the government and the TTP expired in early December, leading to rise in attacks by the militant group, which officials say operates out of sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan.
On Monday, two armed TTP militants on a motorcycle carried out a rare attack on a police checkpoint near a busy market in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The attack killed a police officer and wounded two others. An ensuing shootout killed both assailants.
The militant group claimed responsibility for the Islamabad attack, prompting authorities to step up security across the city and elsewhere in Pakistan.
Analysts say the Pakistani Taliban have been emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power across the border in Afghanistan and anticipate a further rise in militant violence in Pakistan in the near future.
The AP reports that TTP since August has warned of more attacks.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.