At least five people were killed and up to 18 wounded in a Taliban suicide blast that targeted a census team in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore Wednesday, officials said.
Witnesses described being knocked to the ground by the blast just after 8:00 am (0300 GMT), then a “horrible scene” of blood and bodies and the sound of crying. Security forces cordoned off the area on Bedian Road in the bustling capital of Punjab province.
The attack, which the military confirmed was a suicide blast and was quickly claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, was the latest incident to dent growing confidence in security as Pakistan wages a years-long war on militancy.
Farhan Aslam, who was wounded in the explosion, said he and his father had been knocked from their bicycle.
“I saw two dead bodies on the spot and others crying,” the student said from hospital, where local officials were giving flowers to the wounded as a crowd gathered outside.
Punjab health minister Khawaja Imran Nazir said five people had been killed. Three of them were soldiers and two were civilians, a security source said. Rescuers said at least 18 were wounded, including a child who was in critical condition.
The bomber had attacked a van carrying military personnel who were part of a team carrying out a census count, the Pakistan Board of Statistics confirmed.
Teams of enumerators backed by the military and security forces are carrying out Pakistan’s first census in almost two decades, an enormous and highly-charged task that could redraw the country’s political map one year before national parliamentary elections.
“The census is a national duty, and we will complete this task,” Lahore official Abdullah Sumbal said. “There was no lack of security, but you know how difficult it is to deal with suicide attacks.”