A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people, many of them police, in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, officials said, an attack which shattered a period of relative calm in Pakistan's second-largest city.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which wrought carnage near the Lahore Technology Park in the centre of the city. Police deployed to clear street vendors from the area had been targeted, a police official said.
"We suspect that he (the suicide bomber) came on a motorcycle and he rammed it into a police checkpoint," Lahore police operations chief Haider Ashraf said.
Rescue workers shifted the wounded to hospital and police officers cordoned off the bomb site as army troops also arrived at the scene.[caption id="attachment_112552" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Rescue workers and policemen gather after a suicide blast in Lahore, Pakistan July 24, 2017 REUTERS[/caption]
"The death toll we have now is 25 dead and 52 are wounded," said Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the Rescue 1122 service.
A wounded man sitting on the roadside was shown crying in pain on television amidst cars and motorcycles mangled by the blast.
The bombing was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in a message sent to the media by spokesman Muhammad Khurassani. The Pakistani Taliban are loosely allied with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents but focus their attacks on the Pakistani government.
Bomb blasts by militants are common in Pakistan, especially in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, but attacks in Lahore have become less frequent in recent years.
Haider Ashraf, deputy inspector general of Punjab police, said the blast was a suicide attack and "police were the target".
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the majority of those killed and wounded were police and warned the death toll could rise.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the blast in a statement and directed medical efforts for those injured.
Eyewitness Sher Dil, who works at an office close to the site of the explosion, said it blew out the windows of his office building.
"I was in my office when it all happened. It was a deafening blast, which shook the entire Arfa Karim Towers," Dil said.
Pakistan's president, prime minister and army chief all issued statements expressing condolences for the loss of life.
Lahore has been hit by significant militant attacks in Pakistan's more than decade-long war on extremism, but they have been less frequent in recent years.
The last major blast in the city was in March last year, when 75 were killed and hundreds injured in a bomb targeting Christians celebrating Easter Sunday in a park.
But the country was hit by a wave of attacks in February this year, including a bomb that killed 14 people in Lahore.
In April a further seven were killed in an attack in the city targeting a team that was carrying out the country's long overdue census.
After years of spiralling insecurity, the powerful army launched a crackdown on militancy in the wake of a brutal attack on a school in late 2014.
More than 150 people, most of them children, died in the Taliban-led assault in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the country's deadliest ever single attack.
It shook a country already grimly accustomed to atrocities and prompted the military to step up an operation in the tribal areas, where militants had previously operated with impunity.