NEWS | 65 Killed in Lahore Explosion

NEWS | 65 Killed in Lahore Explosion

By RFE/RL
NEWS | 65 Killed in Lahore Explosion

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a deadly blast at a park in the eastern city of Lahore that killed at least 65 and wounded hundreds more, saying the Easter Day suicide bombing deliberately targeted Christians. 

Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Taliban faction calling itself Jamat ul Ahrar, warned that the group would carry out more attacks.

Ahsan called the March 27 bombing a "message" to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who counts the Punjab province and its capital, Lahore, as a political stronghold.
Pakistani authorities say the deadly bomb blast tore through the parking lot of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday.

Officials said many women and children were among the dead and wounded.
Lahore's top administration official, Muhammad Usman, said the death toll had reached 65 people. Officials said more than 280 were also wounded.

"The rescue operation is continuing," Usman was quoted by AFP as saying.

A medical superintendent at a Lahore hospital told AFP that most of the wounded were in critical condition. "I fear the death toll will rise," he said
NEWS | 65 Killed in Lahore Explosion

Earlier, Reuters reported that the deadly blast occurred just outside the park's exit gate and a few meters from children's swings.

Senior police official Haider Ashraf said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, noting that ball bearings were found at the park. But he said that the investigation was continuing..

The White House condemned the apparent suicide attack as "cowardly" and pledged to work with Pakistan to defeat those who terrorize the country.

"The United States condemns in the strongest terms today's appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan," Ned Price, a spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Council, said in a statement.

"This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured," Price added.

Media footage and witness accounts revealed the gruesome carnage left in the wake of the blast.
NEWS | 65 Killed in Lahore Explosion

Children and women were shown standing in pools of blood outside the park, crying and screaming. Rescue officials, police, and bystanders carried injured people to ambulances and private cars.

Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives across from the park, told AFP that he told his family not to go to there because it was overcrowded with Christians celebrating Easter.

He said the explosion shattered the windows of his home.

"Everything was shaking, there were cries and dust everywhere," he told AFP. "After ten minutes I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances."

Overall levels of militant violence in Pakistan have fallen since the army launched a major offensive against Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in the northwest border areas in 2014, though militants continue to stage major attacks occasionally.

Lahore is the capital of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province and a political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, dpa, and AP

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Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
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