LAHORE, Pakistan - Several people were killed and many more injured Tuesday when a suspected Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosives prematurely in a busy neighbourhood as he failed to reach the intended target of police headquarters in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, officials said.
The officials said that at least seven people were dead in the third high profile Taliban attack in what the Islamist fighters described was a revenge for the recent hangings of their colleagues.
"We claim the attack in Lahore because the government is killing our men in prison," said militant commander Ehsanullah Ehsan in a statement.
Ehsan is a spokesman for powerful Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. "We will get revenge for every man and our struggle will continue until sharia (strict Islamic code) is instituted in the country," he said.
The government officials speaking on anonymity said the attacker used ball bearings in the bomb attack in which a police official was also killed and a policewoman was among the injured.
The blast occurred near the main gate of Police Lines in the city's Gujjar Singh area. Several vehicles parked near the blast site caught fire and the window panes of nearby buildings were also shattered.
Punjab police chief Mushtaq Sukhera said four civilians were among the dead.
"The target was the main building of Police Headquarters," said Sukhera.
Jam Hussain, a spokesman for the emergency services, said six bodies had been recovered from the blast site.
At least 23 people were injured, provincial officials said.
The officials said that casualties would have been much higher had the police not been alert, foiling the plans of the bomber to force his way into the police headquarters, Lahore police chief Amin Wains told reporters at the attack site.
"It was a suicide blast, the bomber blew up prematurely outside the police offices," he added. "That he could not enter the offices shows our security was successful."
Pakistan battling decades of Islamist insurgency has seen surge in militant attacks, including a December Taliban massacre at a school in the northeastern city of Peshawar that killed 134 children and 19 adults.
Amid an outpouring of rage and grief, the government began executing convicted militants on death row.
Militants killed 20 people this month in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar while 60 were slaughtered in a January 30 attack on a Shia mosque in the southern province of Sindh.