65 killed as suicide bomber targets Christians in Pakistan park
Published 27/03/2016 | 19:11
A breakaway Pakistani faction of the Taliban has claimed responsibility for an Easter Sunday bombing in a Lahore park that killed 65 people.
Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said a suicide bomber with the faction had deliberately targeted the Christian community in the eastern city.
The explosion took place near children's rides in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, which was crowded with Christians celebrating Easter, local police chief Haider Ashraf said.
He said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, although investigations are ongoing.
The explosion killed 65 people and wounded more than 300 others, according Deeba Shahnaz, a spokesman for Lahore rescue administration.
Punjab's chief minister Shahbaz Sharif announced three days of mourning and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The park was manned by police and private security guards, police chief Haider Ashraf said.
"We are in a warlike situation and there is always a general threat, but no specific threat alert was received for this place," he added.
Pakistan's army chief, General Raheel Sharif, has convened an emergency meeting of the country's intelligence agencies to begin to track down those responsible for the attacks.
Salman Rafiq, a health adviser to the Punjab government, called on people to donate blood, saying many of the wounded are in a critical condition.
Footage broadcast on local television stations showed chaotic scenes in the park, with people running while carrying children and cradling the wounded in their laps.
One witness, who wished to be identified only by his first name, Afzal, said he had taken 20 children to hospital and carried three dead bodies to a police car.
"I can't explain to you the tragic situation," he said.
One witness said he was heading toward a fairground ride with his wife and two children when he heard a huge bang, and all four of them were thrown to the floor.
A woman was shown crying while looking desperately for her missing five-year-old son.
A spokesman for the US National Security Council said America "condemns the attack in the strongest terms", describing it as a "cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park".
Ned Price said the US would continue to work with Pakistan and its partners to "root out the scourge of terrorism".