On this Easter Sunday, we have horrific news to report from Lahore, Pakistan. More than 65 people have been killed and more than 300 injured — mostly women and children — in a suicide bombing at a park today.
While the Islamic State is top of mind this week after a string of attacks, this attack is being claimed by a Pakistani Taliban faction which said it had targeted Christians celebrating this holy day.
More than 300 other people were wounded, officials said.
The explosion occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park close to children’s swings. The park is a popular site for members of Lahore’s Christian community, many of whom had gone there to celebrate the Easter weekend holiday.
Witnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.
“When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air,” said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had gone to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for a walk.
Officials said 65 people were killed and about 300 wounded. Police Superintendant Mustansar Feroz said most of the casualities were women and children.
The Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The target was Christians,” a spokesman for the faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.”
“He can do what he wants but he won’t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.”
Islamist militants in Pakistan have attacked Christians and other religious minorities often over the past decade.
Mustansar Feroz, police superintendent for the area in which the park is located, said most of the injured and dead were women and children.
Media footage showed children and women standing in pools of blood outside the park, crying and screaming and rescue officials, police and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.
Dozens of women and children were seen being wheeled into hospitals, covered in blood. Many of the injured were transported to hospitals on taxis and auto-rickshaws due to a shortage of ambulances. Hundreds of citizens arrived outside hospitals to donate blood.
Local television channels reported that many of the dead bodies were being kept in hospital wards as morgues were overcrowded.
“We were just here to have a nice evening and enjoy the weather,” Nasreen Bibi said at the Services Hospital, crying as she waited for doctors to update her on the condition of her two-year-old injured daughter.
“May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?”
What kind of people indeed.
In the wake of the attack the local government ordered parks closed; main shopping areas were also shut down and many of the city’s main roads were deserted, according to Reuters.
We pray for the victims and their loved ones — and for some sanity to return to this world.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]