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Feb 23, 4:30 AM EST

Pakistani official: Explosion kills 8 in city of Lahore


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AP Photo/Fareed Khan

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LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- An explosion rocked an upscale neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, killing eight people, officials said, in what could be the latest in a string of brazen attacks over the past two weeks that have killed over 125 people.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which took place at a popular restaurant. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told The Associated Press that along with the eight killed, 23 people were wounded in the blast.

"Our focus at the moment is to rush the victims to hospitals and secure the scene of crime," said Lahore operations police chief Haider Ashraf.

Live local TV footages showed smoke rising from a part of the restaurant that is still under construction. The explosion was so powerful that it shattered windows of several nearby buildings. Dust and smoke covered dozens of cars parked outside, their windscreens and rear windows shattered.

Details remained sketchy and no group immediately claimed the explosion as an attack. 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.

The 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, 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 Islamic system.

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Associated Press Writers Asif Shahzad and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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