LAHORE, Pakistan – A suicide bomber trying to enter a police complex in eastern Pakistan killed five people Tuesday, officials said, in a rare attack on the relatively peaceful city of Lahore.
The city is the power base of Pakistan's prime minister. The bombing claimed by a Pakistani Taliban splinter group further destabilizes a country already struggling to deal with its militancy problems following the assault on a school in December that killed 150 people and horrified the country.
Initial reports suggested a man on foot ran toward the gate of one of the main police buildings in Lahore and blew himself up, Lahore police chief Amin Wains said.
At least five people were killed, Home Minister Shuja Khanzada said, although the bomber was not able to get inside the complex.
Several people also were wounded in the blast and some nearby buildings caught on fire, police official Haidar Ashraf said.
Live television footage from the scene showed smoke billowing from the building and people fleeing.
Pakistani rescue authorities could be seen hosing down a smoking building as other officials set up screens to keep media and onlookers away.
A Pakistani Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press.
The group, called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed it was in response to the recent executions of some of their members by the Pakistani government.
"This was a suicide attack and such attacks will go on," said the group's spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan.
The government in December partially removed a moratorium on the death penalty in response to the school attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The eastern city of Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, is just miles from the border with India and is often considered Pakistan's cultural capital.
Such bombings and militant-related violence are relatively rare in Lahore and the surrounding area, although not unheard of. In November, a bombing near the Wagah border crossing killed more than 50 people. That attack was also claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.