LAHORE, Pakistan â€” Explosives in a building under construction ignited Thursday, ripping through a market in an upscale neighbourhood in the eastern city of Lahore, killing eight people, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether the explosives were meant to be a bomb or were merely stored in the building.
The news came as a shock to many in this Islamic nation, where a string of brazen attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 125 people.
The explosion was so powerful it shattered windows of nearby buildings and damaged vehicles parked outside a market in the Defence Housing Authority, said Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister. He said nearly 30 people were wounded.
Hours after the blast, the provincial Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) said it found traces of explosives at scene.
Mohammad Iqbal, spokesman for the CTD, told reporters that investigators were still trying to determine what was the purpose of storing explosive material in the building, and whether it was an improvised explosive device or remote control device.
Lahore police operations chief Haider Ashraf said the explosion took place inside a building that was under construction and where labourers were working at the time.
"Our focus at the moment is to rush the victims to hospitals and secure the scene of crime," he said,
Earlier, live local TV footage showed smoke rising from a part of a restaurant that was under construction. The explosion was so powerful it littered the parking area outside the building with broken glass and debris. Dust and smoke covered dozens of cars parked outside, their windscreens and rear windows shattered.
The restaurant is located in a neighbourhood called Defence Housing Authority, which includes several marketplaces and shopping areas. The area is under control of the military backed department â€” a common practice across Pakistan in better-off residential areas â€” and housing is mainly given to people working for the armed forces, though civilians can also buy plots and build homes.
Recent attacks across Pakistan have been claimed by an array of militant groups, including the Islamic State group and a splinter Taliban faction, and have prompted a countrywide crackdown on militants.
In just one bombing last week, which was claimed by IS and which targeted a revered Sufi shrine packed with Muslim worshippers â€” the majority of them Shiites â€” at least 90 people were killed.
Pakistan has been at war with the Taliban and allied Islamic militants who want to destabilize the nuclear-armed country to install their own harsh interpretation of Islam.
Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Zaheer Babr, The Associated Press