At least nine people were killed on Wednesday in a Taliban attack outside a Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s city of Lahore, officials said.
The blast, a day after the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, went off at a police checkpoint near the Data Darbar, one of the largest Muslim shrines in South Asia.
“Police was the prime target in this attack. We are collecting forensic evidences to ascertain the nature of the blast,” said Ashfaq Khan, deputy inspector general of police operations in Lahore.
Twenty-four people were wounded in the blast that was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, who said they were targeting the police.
“This attack was carried out at a time when there were no civilians near the police,” a spokesman for the militant group, Abdul Aziz Yousafzai, said in a statement.
The Pakistani Taliban have been fighting the government for years.
Muhammad Farooq, a spokesman for the city’s rescue services, said at least seven of the wounded were in critical condition.
Police set up checkpoints on main roads leading to the shrine and hospitals were placed on alert, officials said.
Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, the governor of Punjab province, told reporters that those who carried out Wednesday's attack were the "enemy of Islam and humanity."
"God willing, the security forces with the cooperation of whole nation will defeat these terrorists," he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing.
Pakistanis in large numbers visit the shrine, where a pair of suicide attacks in 2010 killed and wounded dozens of people.
Militant violence has since declined sharply in Pakistan following a sustained crackdown in recent years. Over the past two years Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, has been free of the kind of attacks that were once common.
However, officials warned that the attack showed the need for vigilance during Ramadan.