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34 killed, 109 injured in Lahore blasts

By M Zulqernain
Last updated on: December 08, 2009 00:49 IST
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Thirty four people, including women and children, were killed and over 100 injured when two powerful blasts ripped through a crowded commercial hub in Lahore on Monday night, hours after a suicide blast in the northwestern city of Peshawar left 10 people dead.

The blasts rocked Moon Market in Allama Iqbal Town area shortly after 8.45 pm. One explosion occurred within the market while the other occurred on its outer perimeter. The blasts went off within a minute of each other near a bank and a police station.

Thirty-four people were killed and 109 injured by the blasts and the death toll could rise, said Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervaiz.

Rescue workers were sifting through the rubble of burnt shops to ascertain if more people were buried under the rubble. A two-year-old boy and at least three women were among the dead.

The injured were taken to five hospitals, where doctors performed emergency surgeries to save their lives. At least 18 of the wounded had severe burn injuries, doctors said.

Inspector General of Police Tariq Saleem Dogar told reporters the blasts were "remote controlled explosions and not suicide attacks".

There were reports that one of the blasts was caused by a suicide bomber though this could not be verified. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosions sparked a massive fire that engulfed several shops and a bank.

Rescue workers rushed to the area but their efforts were hampered by a power outage caused by the blasts. The fire was exacerbated as several motorcycles and goods stored in the shops went up in flames.

An emergency was declared at the hospitals, which were thronged by people looking for their loved ones. There were moving scenes as people wandered through wards, looking for their relatives.

Hospitals appealed to people to donate blood for the injured. A large number of people, including women and children, were present at the time of the blasts in Moon Market, which is popular for its eateries.

The explosions caused widespread panic across Lahore. "I had not recovered from the first powerful blast when another explosion left me completely stunned," said Muhammad Asghar, a vendor who sells fruits near the parking lot in Moon Market.

The blaze was controlled by fire fighters almost two hours after the blasts. Rescue workers said several charred bodies were pulled out of shops and residential apartments in the market. The blasts were the latest in a wave of terrorist attacks that hit Pakistan after the army launched operations against the Taliban in South Waziristan tribal region.

Earlier today, 10 people were killed and nearly 50 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a court complex in Peshawar.

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M Zulqernain in Lahore
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