Lahore - Four people, including a six-year-old girl, died and another three dozens wounded when a bomb ripped through the famous Old Anarkali food street on The Mall during rush hours Saturday night.

Five of the injured were reported to be critical till midnight. “Women, children and students are also among the victims,” a doctor at the Mayo Hospital told reporters outside the emergency ward.

Ambulances were seen racing to hospitals to shift the victims amid hue and cry. The identification of the dead was yet to be ascertained but hospital sources said that two of the dead were Punjab University students. The provincial health minister said that a six-year-old girl and a woman were also among the dead.

No group had claimed the responsibility for the attack till late night. Police said a time device stashed into a shopping bag was detonated beneath a freezer outside a restaurant. “According to initial investigations, it was not a suicide blast. But it was (surely) a terror attack,” Lahore investigation police chief, DIG Zulifqar Hameed, told reporters after visiting the site.

“We were having dinner in the food street when we heard a huge blast a few meters from our table. It was terrible. It was (a) huge and powerful (blast),” said Muhammad Afzal Ikram, who sustained injuries on his head. “The blast was so powerful that it impaired my hearing instantly,” he said.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed told reporters at the crime scene that a half-kilogram explosive material was used in the blast. “At least 25 injured have been shifted to different public hospitals. Four of the wounded are in critical condition,” Shafique said.

“There was hue and cry everywhere soon after the blast. I saw food stuff and blood-soaked bodies lying on the street before I fell unconscious,” Muhammad Ahmed, another victim told reporters in the emergency ward of the Ganga Ram Hospital. The blast shattered windowpanes of several nearby shops and also badly damaged motorcycles parked outside the food points.

Muhammad Ali, another injured said that he was about 150 meters (yards) from the restaurant when the blast went off. Ali said he and others rushed to help the victims before the ambulances arrived.

“I was in my shop when I heard a powerful explosion, and everybody rushed to the explosion site,” he said. “Part of the restaurant was damaged and the windows of the nearby shops were shattered. We saw several wounded people screaming for help.”

The freely accessible food-street having no special security arrangements is always swarming with people at early hours of night and therefore it is a soft target for the terrorists. In the past, Taliban militants have carried out a string of deadly attacks in the capital of Punjab. But given that the bombing has come at the citadel of ruling PML-N at a time when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on a visit to China, the hand of forces averse to Pak-China friendship cannot be ruled out.

Shopkeepers and shoppers blamed poor police security, which provided space to the terrorists to sneak into the food street to carry out the blast with impunity. The dinning tables, filled with food stuff, were found scattered at the site, which was thronged by people minutes before the terror assault.

“There are no walk-thorough gates at the entry and exit points of the food street. The police and politicians are busy with their personal ambitions and the citizens are left at the mercy of militants,” said an injured while standing on the footpath, his shirt stained with blood.

Despite serious security threats, there was no policeman on-guard in the locality when bomb shook the food lovers. The gates on both sides of the street were closed and in the absence of any security check, the terrorists managed to sneak into the street to detonate the time device.

“There were general threat alerts but not any specific one. We had no specific intelligence before the attack,” claimed police officer Zulifqar. After the blast, the police stepped up security and begun physical search of the visitors. Police experts collected forensic evidences from the crime scene. Investigators said that ball bearings were also recovered from the blast site. Police also launched a search operation across the city but no arrest was made till midnight.

Old Anarkali Food-street is one of the most famous food points in Lahore. A great number of people, especially families and students, visit the place to enjoy various food varieties. The street was filled with eaters and visitors when the huge blast tore through the commercial neighbourhood.