A suicide bomber got within striking distance of Gaddafi stadium where over 20,000 people were watching a Pakistan-Zimbabwe ODI but was foiled by a policeman, who along with a civilian, was killed when the militant blew himself up.
Security concerns were raised as the touring Zimbabwe team is the first international cricket team to visit Pakistan since the Taliban attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 near the same stadium here that injured six team members.
During the day-night match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe here, the bomber blew himself up while riding a rickshaw at 9 PM near Kalma Chowk less than a kilometre away from the cricketing venue.
Four persons were initially rushed to a nearby hospital where sub-inspector Abdul Majid was pronounced dead.
A total 10 people were injured in the attack.
Soon after the blast, the Pakistan Cricket Board issued a statement, saying it was a “power transformer blast” that was caused by malfunctioning. Police cordoned off the area and no one, including the media, was allowed to enter the blast site.
Senior police officials kept denying it was a suicide blast.
“The gas cylinder fixed in the auto rickshaw was exploded. Forensic samples had been collected from the site to determine the nature of the explosion,” Lahore police chief Amin Wains told reporters.
There were two persons killed in the explosion, he said, adding that it would be premature to say that it was a “suicide attack”.
However, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told Geo News: “An attempt to attack the Gaddafi Stadium was foiled by the gallantry of a police official, who lost his life while trying to stop the attacker near Kalma Chowk.”
He praised the actions of Pakistan Broadcasters Association for “covering up” the news while the cricket match was underway. More than 20,000 people were inside the stadium and panic could have caused stampede, Rashid said.
The policeman and a civilian were killed in the explosion besides the bomber himself.
Local media had at first reported an explosion close to the Gaddafi stadium but later took the news off air after it was claimed that the blast was caused by an electricity transformer in the area.
International cricket returned to Pakistan after a six-year absence last week amidst fanfare at a sold-out Gaddafi Stadium for the first Twenty20 international between the hosts and Zimbabwe.
The Punjab government has given “presidential” security to the touring Zimbabwe cricket team to ensure that no terror incident takes place during the tour.
PCB spokesman Agha Akbar told PTI that the Zimbabwe team is continuing the tour and will play the last ODI as planned on Friday.