LAHORE, Pakistan - A suicide car bomber struck a building where police interrogate high-value suspects in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore today, killing at least 11 people and wounding scores more, including women and children heading to school, officials said.
The attack broke what had been a relative lull in major violence in Pakistan. It also showed that insurgents retain the ability to strike the country’s heartland, far from the Afghan border regions where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have long thrived, despite army offensives aimed at wiping them out.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups. Those groups are believed responsible for a wave of attacks that killed more than 600 people starting in October, including several in major Pakistani cities. More recent attacks have been smaller and confined to remote northwest regions near Afghanistan.
The bomb blast today came amid reports of a Pakistani crackdown on Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives using its soil. Among the militants said to have been arrested is the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
The explosion went off outside a Punjab province police building, a police official said. TV footage showed a huge crater in the ground where the blast seemed to have originated.
“This place was used to interrogate important suspects, but presently there [were no suspects], but more then 40 staff were manning the place,’’ said Pervez Rathore, Lahore’s police chief.