The blast took place when the police were changing guards at a checkpoint outside an annual religious congregation, where nearly 80,000 people were in attendance. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility.

A Pakistani rescue worker gives medical treatment to injured blast victims in an ambulance following a motorcycle bomb attack in Lahore on March 14, 2018.
A Pakistani rescue worker gives medical treatment to injured blast victims in an ambulance following a motorcycle bomb attack in Lahore on March 14, 2018. ( AFP )

 A suicide bomb blast ripped through a police checkpoint in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing at least seven people and wounding 18, officials said.

Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman of a state-run rescue service, told Reuters that his officials had taken seven dead bodies to hospitals.

"Our rescuers are at work," he said. "They have shifted so far seven bodies."

Deputy Inspector General of police Haider Ashraf said the explosion occurred when the police were changing guards at the checkpoint just outside an annual religious congregation, where nearly 80,000 people were in attendance.

"I can at the moment say that police was the target," he said.

"It was a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle who attacked the police," Ashraf said. He said four of the dead were police.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in a WhatsApp message sent to a Reuters reporter.

Lahore is considered a cultural hub of the nuclear-armed nation of over 208 million people, where extremists have been fighting for over a decade against the state in a bid to install their own rule.

The city has largely been spared the militant violence seen in the country's northwest which sits at the edge of a lawless mountain range along the Afghan border.

That area has long been home to local and foreign militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and where Daesh has lately made footholds.

The Pakistani Taliban leadership have fled to neighbouring Afghanistan from where Islamabad alleges they plan and execute terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Washington on Thursday offered a $5 million bounty for the Pakistani Taliban militant leader, Mullah Fazlullah, a day after a suspected US drone strike on a training camp in a remote part of Afghanistan killed his son and more than 20 other militants preparing to launch suicide attacks in Pakistan.

The US cooperation comes amid worsening US-Pakistan relations and coincided with a visit to Washington by Pakistan's foreign secretary for talks expected to focus on boosting counterterrorism cooperation and the US strategy in Afghanistan.

Source: Reuters