A suicide bomber killed at least 26 people, many of them police, in the Pakistani metropolis of Lahore on Monday, officials and local media reported. The death toll is expected to rise as dozens were injured.
The blast wrought carnage near the Arfa Karim Software Technology Park in the heart of the city, targeting police who were deployed to clear illegal street vendors from the area, an official said. The anti-encroachment operation was ordered by the Lahore Development Authority.
TRT World's Staci Bivens has this report.
Haider Ashraf, deputy inspector general of Punjab police, said the blast was a suicide attack and "police were the target."
"Apparently, according to our initial findings, he was a suicide bomber, who used a motorcycle," Ashraf, told reporters, adding that at least 10 police officers were among the dead.
He said many of 54 wounded are policemen and several bystanders were wounded by the impact of the powerful blast.
Attacking the heartland
The attack shattered a period of relative calm in Pakistan's second-largest city. Lahore, a city of around six million, is the capital of Pakistan's most powerful province, Punjab.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the blast, in a message sent to local media.
Rana Sanaullah, the home minister of Punjab province of which Lahore is the capital, said anti-state elements who want to see instability in the country were behind the attack.
"No matter what name they use, these terrorists are one but they cannot demoralise the Pakistani nation," said Sanaullah.
Malik Mohammad Ahmed, a spokesman for the Punjab government, said the blast occurred near the secretariat of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif but that he was not in the office at the time.
Sharif in a statement condemned the attack and called for the best possible medical service for the survivors.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the blast in a statement and called for the injured to be given the best possible treatment.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attack in Lahore and called for those responsible to be brought to justice, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
"He supports the efforts of the government of Pakistan to fight terrorism and violent extremism with full respect for international human rights norms and obligations," Haq said.
Militant attacks in Pakistan
Lahore has been hit by significant militant attacks in Pakistan's more than a decade-long war on extremism, but they have been less frequent in recent years.
The last major blast in the city was in March 2016, 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.