Sunday 18 February 2018

Suicide bomber 'targeting Christian families' kills scores

Rescue workers move a body from the site of a blast targeting Christians at a public park in Lahore. Reuters/Mohsin Raza
Rescue workers move a body from the site of a blast targeting Christians at a public park in Lahore. Reuters/Mohsin Raza

Mubasher Bukhari

A suicide bomber killed at least 65 people, mostly women and children, at a public park in the Pakistani city of Lahore yesterday, government officials and police said, in an attack that deliberately targeted Christians.

The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few metres away from children's swings. Around 300 people were injured in the explosion, officials said.

A breakaway faction of the militant Taliban group in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, told reporters that a suicide bomber with the faction deliberately targeted the Christian community. He warned that more attacks would follow.

Local police chief Haider Ashraf said the area was crowded with Christians celebrating the Easter holidays and many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred.

Mr Ashraf said the park was manned by police guards and private security guards.

"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.

Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the car park. The park had been particularly busy yesterday evening due to the Easter holiday weekend.

Javed Ali, who lives opposite the park, told local media that the force of the blast shattered the windows of his home. He said: "Everything was shaking - there were cries and dust everywhere. After 10 minutes, I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house."

He added: "It was overcrowded because of Easter - there were a lot of Christians there. It was so crowded I told my family not to go."

Hasan Imran (30) said he was taking an evening walk in the park when the explosion detonated. He said: "When the blast occurred the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air."

The government of Punjab issued an urgent appeal online for blood donations to help treat the wounded. The government's official Twitter account posted a message offering free transport to anyone who wished to donate blood.

Irish Independent

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