An Easter Sunday celebration by the Christian population in Pakistan turned into tragedy when an explosion tore through a neighbourhood park, killing 69 people, mostly women and children, and injuring more than 300 others, according to a report on CNN on Monday, March 28.
But the attack, claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, intentionally targeted Christians, the perpetrators were quoted as saying.
The suicide blast occurred in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore, according to Punjab government spokesperson Jehangir Awan.
It comes at a difficult time for Pakistan’s Christians, some of whom were in the city’s Gulshan Iqbal Park to celebrate the holiday Sunday evening, only to see what was supposed to be a joyous event reduced into fragments of terror and chaos.
The religious group makes up only 2 percent of the population, and tensions are high between them and a hardline Muslim core which wants to see a strict interpretation of Islamic law take precedence in Pakistan’s legal system, the report said.
Attacks to continue
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban known as Jamat-ul-Ahrar vowed such attacks would continue. Parks in the city remained closed into Monday for security reasons, according to the deputy commissioner of police.
Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast. Sharif was born in Lahore and enjoyed strong support there.
Pakistan’s internal terror operations took a new turn following the incident, with General Asim Bajwa tweeting that the Chief of Army Staff chaired a high-level meeting to review an operation in Punjab — something that has previously resisted by Nawaz Sharif’s government, which has its power base in the province.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has worked to thaw the icy relations between the two neighbors, called Sharif on Sunday to express his grief over the bombing.
The Indian leader expressed solidarity with Pakistan, the Pakistani state-run news agency reported.
“Modi said coward terrorists had targeted females and kids which was highly condemnable and regrettable,” according to the state-run agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan.
The US and Australian governments also condemned the attack, according to the CNN report.
“This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop echoed the sentiment.
“As Christians worldwide celebrate Easter, a shocking terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, reminds us that terrorism is a global scourge,” she said Monday.
“The Australian Government condemns this horrific act that has killed dozens of civilians, including children, and expresses our condolences to the people of Pakistan and its government at this time.”
History of violence
In March 2015, suicide bombers attacked a Christian community, also in Lahore, setting off two blasts that killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more, officials said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack too and warned of more to come.
The explosions, which struck the Nishtar Colony area in the city of Lahore, wounded at least 78 people, Dr. Muhammed Saeed Sohbin, medical superintendent at Lahore General Hospital, said then.
In 2013, suicide bombers struck a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 people.
Thumbnail from en.wikipedia.org/Adnanrail- Gulshan Iqbal Park