Suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, kills at least 65 - mostly women and children
K.M. Chuadary/AP Photo
A suicide bomber killed at least 65 people and injured more than 280 others, mostly women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, striking at the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political base of Punjab.The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few feet away from children's swings.Advertisement
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani faction of the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday night. The attack, which occurred in a busy residential area during the Easter holiday weekend, deliberately targeted Pakistan's Christian minority.
"The target were Christians," Reuters quoted a spokesman for the group as saying. "We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants but he won't be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks."Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 190 million people, is plagued by a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs, and sectarian violence. Punjab is its biggest and wealthiest province.
Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast."When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air," said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had come to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for a walk.Salman Rafique, a health adviser for the Punjab provincial government, put the death toll at least 60 people.Advertisement
"There are more than 280 injured people," Rafique said. "Many are in operation theaters now being treated and we fear that the death toll may climb considerably."
The US, a strategic ally of Pakistan, condemned the attack.
"The United States stands with the people and government of Pakistan at this difficult hour. We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region ... to root out the scourge of terrorism," White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
'May god shower his wrath'Media footage showed children and women standing in pools of blood outside the park, crying and screaming and rescue officials, police, and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.Advertisement
Dozens of women and children were seen being wheeled into hospitals, covered in blood. Many of the injured were transported to hospitals on taxis and auto-rickshaws due to a shortage of ambulances. Hundreds of citizens arrived outside hospitals to donate blood.
"May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?"Soon after the attack, the Punjab government ordered all public parks to be closed and announced three days of mourning in the province. The main shopping areas were shut down and many of the city's main roads were deserted.The army was called in to control crowds outside the park. Some distraught, sobbing relatives clashed with police and rescue officials.Advertisement
Punjab has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan. Sharif's opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.
Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister's home in Punjab.(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Editing by Gareth Jones)Advertisement
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