Suspected suicide attack kills at least 69 people, injures over 300 others.
The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday claimed a suicide bombing outside the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore that killed at least 69 people and injured over 300 others, most of them women and children.
A faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the bombing to the Voice of America radio service. In a tweet, the VoA Deewa, which broadcasts to the tribal regions along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that a militant spokesman had claimed the attack. “#LahoreBlast: Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan claims responsibility for attack, says its reaction to current Zarb-e-Azb operation.” The militant also told media that the attack had specifically targeted the Christian community on Easter. Earlier, police had dismissed that the attack was religiously motivated.
“Based on the evidence we have found at the crime scene, it appears to have been a suicide attack,” DIG (Operations) Haider Ashraf told Newsweek. He claimed the attack did not specifically targeting Christian minorities who were commemorating Easter Sunday, saying it was an attack on innocent civilians, regardless of creed. “Our enemies are very cruel and inhuman. They targeted women, children, and civilians,” he said.
Ashraf said a forensics team had estimated that approximately 10 kilograms of explosives had been detonated in the attack and the attacker had utilized ball bearings to maximize injuries.
A spokesman for the Punjab government and hospital sources said the death toll had risen to 69, after earlier claiming 60 had been killed. The hospital employees said several critically injured had died and would likely raise the death toll even more. Earlier, Salman Rafiq, special assistant to the Chief Minister on Health had confirmed that over 50 people were dead, most of them women and children. He said 45 of the deceased were at Jinnah Hospital. “Emergency has been imposed in all hospitals of the city,” he said.
Tasneem Aslam, a rescue official, said that over 200 injured and dead had been transferred to various hospitals across Lahore. He said many of the injured were in critical condition and the death toll would likely rise. “An entire family was decimated,” he said, “the only survivor is a 10-year-old child.”
Parveen Masih, an eyewitness injured in the attack, said she had visited the park to commemorate Easter with her family. “So many parents have lost children today,” she said, adding that a lot of members of the Christian community were commemorating Easter Sunday at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.
Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives opposite the park, told AFP the force of the blast had shattered his home’s windows. “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. People were crying, I could hear ambulances.” 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.”
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced three days of mourning for the people killed in the attack.
According to broadcast media, the explosives were detonated close to amusement park rides set up for children.
Social media website Facebook activated its safety check feature in Lahore following the attack. The feature, first deployed following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, allows people in an affected area to demonstrate to their Facebook contacts that they are safe, following a major incident that caused loss of life.
The global community has condemned the attack and condoled with the victims.
The United States condemned as “cowardly” the attack, and vowed to work with Pakistan to defeat those sowing terror in the country. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a White House statement. “This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured.”
“We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region, as together we will be unyielding in our efforts to root out the scourge of terrorism,” added Price.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a twitter posting, condemned the blast. “Canada condemns the deplorable bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those killed or injured. #LahoreBlast” he posted.
Similarly, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and expressed his condolences for the women and children killed in the bombing.
Editor’s Note: This story is still developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.