A suicide bomber targeting Pakistani security personnel blew himself up outside a revered Sufi shrine in Lahore in the Punjab province on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, including five police commandos, and injuring 25 others as the country marks Ramzan.
The powerful blast took place around 8:45 am (local time) outside Gate number 2 of the Data Darbar shrine, the largest Sufi shrine in South Asia, where the elite police personnel were deployed for security after a suicide attack in 2010, police said.
The condition of four policemen is stated to be critical.
Punjab Inspector General Police Arif Nawaz told reporters that it was a suicide attack and 7kg of explosives were used in the blast.
"The target of the suicide bomber was the vehicle of the Elite Force that was stationed outside the shrine of Sufi saint Ali Hajvari commonly known as Data Darbar," Nawaz said.
He said the suicide bomber came closer to the police personnel vehicle and blew himself up, killing five of them and injuring other four critically. One security guard and three civilians are among the dead, he said.
The impact of the blast shattered the windows of nearby vehicles and buildings, Pakistani media reported.
Television footage showed a number of damaged vehicles near the shrine.
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Saleha Saeed told media that one of the dead bodies brought in to Mayo Hospital was that of the suspected attacker.
"It was a suicide attack. Ball bearings were also used in the attack," she told reporters.
Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja said that the death toll may rise as some of the injured were in critical condition.
"We condemn this cowardly act," he said and also confirmed it was suicide attack.
Mayo Hospital Medical Superintendent Yar Muhammad put the death toll to nine.
"We have received nine persons, including policemen dead. The condition of six injured is critical and doctors are trying their best to save their lives," he said.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and other leaders condemned the attack.
The premier expressed condolence to the bereaved families and directed authorities concerned to provide best possible medical treatment to those injured in the blast.
A rescue operation was conducted in the area before it was cordoned off for investigation. The shrine was evacuated, with devotees moved out through exits away from the blast site. Entry to Data Darbar has since been restricted.
A heavy contingent of police, Counter-Terrorism Department and forensic officials are collecting evidence from the site of the attack. The Inspector General of Police said police will share their findings once they conclude their probe.
All regional police officers and city police officers have been directed to examine security in their respective areas and remain alert during the month of Ramazan.
The shrine is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
In 2010, the shrine was targeted in a suicide attack that killed more than 40 people, and is heavily guarded.
Photographs: Mohsin Raza/Reuters