At least 65 people have been killed and another 300 injured in a blast outside a public park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.
Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar have claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they specifically wanted to kill Christians. The bomb detonated on Sunday evening in local time, when many Christian families were visiting the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park area to celebrate Easter. It exploded as families were leaving the park and the majority of victims are believed to be women and children. It is believed to have detonated close to children’s swings
Officials say that at least 65 people have died and a further 300 people are injured- of the injured, at least 50 are children. It is reported that many of the injured have been seriously harmed in the explosion, prompting fears that the death toll could rise considerably higher.
Rescue officials said that the bodies of more than 30 deceased had been taken to hospitals around the city. All hospitals in the city have been put on emergency alert to tend to the injured.
Salman Rafique, health advisor to the Punjab provincial government, said: “Many [of the wounded] are in operation theatres now being treated and we fear the death toll may climb considerably.”
Senior police officer Haider Ashraf says the explosion appeared to be a suicide bombing but that investigations were ongoing to establish the cause.
He said that the park was manned by police and security guards, telling reporters: “We are in a war like situation and there is always a general threat but no specific alert threat was received for this place.”
Eye witnesses have described the scene as chaotic and said that a stampede ensued following the blast, causing children to be separated from parents.
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 ten 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, says he was talking an evening walk in the park when the explosion detonated. He said: “When the blast occured the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air.”
The government of Punjab has issued an urgent appeal online for blood donations to help treat the wounded. The government’s official twitter accounted posted a message offering free transport to anyone who wished to donate blood.
Chief minister of the Punjab province Shahbaz Sharif has announced three days of official morning and vowed to bring those responsible before the courts.
Local officials have ordered all play parks in the province to shut.
Lahore is the capital of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political heartland Punjab, which is the country’s biggest and wealthiest province.
Courtesy The Independent
Siobhan Fenton is a London-based Northern Irish journalist writing about gender and politics