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Explosion Kills 8 in Pakistan          02/23 06:15

   LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Explosives in a building under construction ignited 
Thursday, ripping through a market in an upscale neighborhood in the eastern 
city of Lahore, killing eight people, officials said. It was not immediately 
clear whether the explosives were meant to be a bomb or were merely stored in 
the building.

   The news came as a shock to many in this Islamic nation, where a string of 
brazen attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 125 people.

   The explosion was so powerful it shattered windows of nearby buildings and 
damaged vehicles parked outside a market in the Defense Housing Authority, said 
Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister. He said nearly 30 people were wounded.

   Hours after the blast, the provincial Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) 
said it found traces of explosives at scene.

   Mohammad Iqbal, spokesman for the CTD, told reporters that investigators 
were still trying to determine what was the purpose of storing explosive 
material in the building, and whether it was an improvised explosive device or 
remote control device.

   Lahore police operations chief Haider Ashraf said the explosion took place 
inside a building that was under construction and where laborers were working 
at the time.

   "Our focus at the moment is to rush the victims to hospitals and secure the 
scene of crime," he said,

   Earlier, live local TV footage showed smoke rising from a part of a 
restaurant that was under construction. The explosion was so powerful it 
littered the parking area outside the building with broken glass and debris. 
Dust and smoke covered dozens of cars parked outside, their windscreens and 
rear windows shattered.

   The restaurant is located in a neighborhood called Defense Housing 
Authority, which includes several marketplaces and shopping areas. The area is 
under control of the military backed department --- a common practice across 
Pakistan in better-off residential areas --- and housing is mainly given to 
people working for the armed forces, though civilians can also buy plots and 
build homes.

   Recent attacks across Pakistan have been claimed by an array of militant 
groups, including the Islamic State group and a splinter Taliban faction, and 
have prompted a countrywide crackdown on militants.

   In just one bombing last week, which was claimed by IS and which targeted a 
revered Sufi shrine packed with Muslim worshippers --- the majority of them 
Shiites --- at least 90 people were killed.

   Pakistan has been at war with the Taliban and allied Islamic militants who 
want to destabilize the nuclear-armed country to install their own harsh 
interpretation of Islam.


(KA)

 
 
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