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PAKISTAN

Blast hits Lahore police post

3 min

A suicide blast outside a police station in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore killed at least seven people as the country was preparing to mark the 61st anniversary of its independence on Thursday.

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A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police station in Lahore on Wednesday during preparations for Pakistan's Independence Day, killing at least seven people, police said.

The blast ripped through a crowd of policemen standing guard at the station on the outskirts of the eastern city, leaving bloodied victims lying on the ground amid piles of broken glass and debris, witnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but security officials said they believed the blast was likely in revenge for a Pakistani offensive against Taliban militants in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

"The police party was deployed in front of the police station and a suicide bomber approached them on foot and exploded himself, resulting in seven deaths so far," senior police investigator Mushtaq Sukhera told AFP.

Five of the dead were policemen, including the officer in charge of the group hit by the blast, and two were civilians, Sukhera said. Another 20 people were wounded, eight of them police, he added.

Provincial police chief Shaukat Javed said there had been warnings of an attack.

"There had were indications through intelligence sources about a possible attack and police deployed in large numbers to ward off any threat to public security. This is unfortunate and police remain on high alert," Javed told AFP.

A policeman who witnessed the immediate aftermath said he saw the burning body of a man, whom he believed to be a suicide bomber. He said the bomber appeared to have ridden a motorcycle.

"His body was making burning noises," the policeman, who gave his name as Atif, told private Express television.

"I saw at least three policemen lying on the ground unconscious or dead. There were three to four other policemen standing nearby with their uniforms torn," he said.

An AFP journalist saw several policemen at the scene weeping for their dead colleagues. Pools of blood lay on the ground along with charred debris, while much of the scene was in darkness because nearby street lamps were blown out.

Another police official, Pervez Rathore said the blast deliberately targeted preparations for Pakistan's 61st Independence Day on Thursday.

"It was an act to sabotage the independence day celebrations," Rathore told AFP.

The Taliban threatened earlier this week to restart its campaign of suicide bombings if the operation in the troubled Bajaur tribal region, which has left more than 180 people dead, was not stopped.

The attack in Lahore was the second deadly bombing in Pakistan in as many days, after a roadside bomb targeting an air force bus in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed 13 people.

A suspected US missile strike on a militant training camp in the South Waziristan tribal region late Tuesday meanwhile killed ten Islamist rebels, security officials said.

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