LAHORE: After scouring through CCTV footages, Pakistan police on Friday identified three suspects, who they believe had orchestrated the powerful bomb blast that ripped through a crowded market here where Indian commodities are sold, killing three people and injuring 28 others.
The blast took place at 1.45 pm on Thursday after an explosive device went off near the Paan Mandi in the famous Anarkali market. Gory videos and images of people lying in a pool of blood had gone viral on social media.
A number of motorcycles, vendor stalls were damaged and window panes of shops and buildings were also shattered in the explosion. The market is known for selling items like textiles, garments, jewellery and handicrafts.
"Through CCTV footage, three suspects, one placing the bag seemingly full of explosives, and two others coordinating with each other, were identified," a senior police official said on Friday.
"Geofencing of the area has also been done and soon we will reach the suspects," he said. The footage, which has also been released to the media, shows the suspect placing a bag outside a bank near Paan Mandi in Anarkali Bazaar, while the other two were seen coordinating with each other.
They were sporting shalwar kameez and jackets and seemed to be youths in their 20s. Lahore Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Dr Abid Khan said the explosive material was planted under a cart or on a motorbike that were found completely damaged at the site.
"The law enforcement agencies declared it a terrorist attack and were investigating whether it was an improvised explosive device (IED) or something else," he said.
The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Police has registered an FIR against three unidentified persons.
Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Usman told reporters on Thursday that the blast was claimed by a Baloch insurgent group. "It was a high explosive device targeting a crowded place to ensure maximum casualties," he said.
The Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), one of several ethnic insurgent groups active in the mineral-rich southwestern Balochistan province - claimed responsibility for the blast.
"We accept the responsibility for targeting the bank in Anarkali Bazaar Lahore. This attack targeted bank employees. A detailed statement will be issued soon," BNA spokesman Mureed Baloch said in a tweet. The BNA had earlier warned that it will target the financial institutions. Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is home to a long-running violent insurgency.
Baloch insurgent groups have previously carried out several attacks targeting China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in the region.
However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for the blast.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the blast and instructed authorities to provide the best medical facilities to the injured. He also sought a report from the Punjab government over the incident.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has directed the inspector general of police to submit a report on the incident.
"This incident is aimed at sabotaging the atmosphere of law and order. Those responsible for the blast will not be able to escape the clutches of the law," he said.