Lahore bombing: 'We targeted Christians celebrating Easter'
Lahore: Pakistani Taliban yesterday said the horrific suicide bombing at a popular park here was targeted at Christians celebrating Easter, even as the death toll in the massacre rose to 72 including 29 children.
A child, who survived the attack, cries at his cousin’s funeral. Pics/AFP
“Three more people yesterday succumbed to their injuries raising the death toll to 72,” Punjab Emergency Services Rescue team spokesperson Deeba Shahnaz said. She said the condition of 26 out of the over 300 injured was very critical. Most of the injured are children.
An injured Pakistani child in a hospital in Lahore
At least 29 children and eight women are among the dead, according to the data released by different city hospitals. At least 20 Christians are also among the dead. A large number of people were present at the crowded Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park of Allama Iqbal Town when a powerful blast took place on Sunday evening.
A large number of Christian families were present in the park due to Easter Sunday. The brutal attack by a suicide bomber — believed to be in his 20s — was claimed by the Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
“It was targeted at Christians celebrating Easter,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the group, said. “We have carried out this attack to target the Christians who were celebrating Easter. Also this is a message to the Pakistani Prime Minister that we have arrived in Punjab,” he said.
The Punjab government, however, denied Jamaatul Ahrar’s claim that the bombing was aimed exclusively at Christians. “Christians were not the specific target in the blast. It was not the park meant for Christians only.
The targets were Pakistanis,” said Lahore District Coordination Officer retired Captain Muhammad Usman.
“It was a suicide attack. A suicide bomber blew himself inside the park near the children play area,” Deputy Inspector General Lahore Police Dr Haider Asharaf said. “Some 10 to 15 kilogramme explosive might have been used in the blast,” he said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif this morning visited Jinnah Hospital and inquired about the health of the injured patients. “Why terrorists are killing us,” an injured child asked the Premier from his hospital bed.
The Prime Minister directed the health authorities to ensure best treatment for the injured. He vowed that the perpetrators of the Lahore attack would not escape punishment.
A family of a child at the Jinnah Hospital protested Sharif’s visit. “Police did not allow our relatives to enter the hospital because the PM was visiting. If they cannot provide security to their citizens they at least should not create problems for them in the name of security,” said Rabia Bibi, who lost her two children in the bombing and third suffered injuries.
Pope demands minorities protection
Pope Francis yesterday appealed to Pakistani authorities to step up security for religious minorities after the “abhorrent” suicide bombing targeting Christians. “Yesterday (Sunday) in Pakistan, Holy Easter was bloodied by an abhorrent attack,” the pontiff told a crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square in his Angelus blessing on Easter Monday. “I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social constituents of this nation to do everything in their power to restore safety and serenity to the population, particularly the most vulnerable religious minorities”, he said. The Vatican had condemned the attack as “fanatical violence against Christian minorities.”
Sharif cancels UK visit
Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif yesterday cancelled his visit to Britain following the horrific Easter bombing. Sharif was scheduled to leave for Britain yesterday but he cancelled his trip after the blast last evening at Gulshan-e- Iqbal Park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter, a spokesman at the PM’s secretariat said.