At least 65 people have been killed and 300 injured by a Taliban suicide bomber who targeted Christians near a children’s playground in a park in Pakistan.

*Around 300 people were injured in the attack in the centre of Lahore today
*No terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack on the park
*City is the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political base of Punjab
*Punjab launched an ongoing war against Taliban insurgents in the state

At least 65 people have been killed and 300 injured by a Taliban suicide bomber who targeted Christians near a children’s playground in a park in Pakistan.

The blast happened in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore, a few metres away from children’s swings, and most of the victims are believed to be women and children.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack, adding: ‘The target was Christians.’

Authorities have so far confirmed the deaths of 65 people at the park, where Christians had been celebrating Easter, but they expect the death toll to rise.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Bodies were lined up by the side of a fairground ride after the tragic bombing in which 65 people have been killed, and the death toll is expected to rise further

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Men mourn the death of their relatives after a blast outside a public park in Lahore that was attacked

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
The blast occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few metres away from children’s swings, and most of those hurt and killed are thought to be women and children

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Scenes of distress were seen on the streets as local people came to terms with the anguish of the attack

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
People in the area rushed to help more than 200 people who were injured in the blast and they are now filling up hospitals nearby

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast but the country is plagued with Taliban insurgents and criminal gangs

Senior police official Haider Ashraf said the blast appeared to be a suicide attack, adding that ball bearings were found at the crowded park.

Medical workers said the blast mainly killed women and children, while many of the wounded were in a critical condition.

The chief minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, has announced three days mourning and pledged to ensure that those involved in the attack are brought to trial.

Nasreen Bibi, the mother of a two-year-old injured in the attack, spoke through tears as she waited for news from the doctors.

‘We were just here to have a nice evening and enjoy the weather. May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?’

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
BRITAIN OFFERS SYMPATHIES
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond wrote on Twitter: ‘My thoughts are with victims of Lahore Blast.
UK utterly condemns senseless & shocking violence against innocent families.’

The group responsible for the attack was founded Omar Khalid Korasani, a former Taliban senior leader who broke off from the main group to form the more-hardline organization in 2014.

He re-aligned with the main Pakistani Taliban leadership last year, and the group are currently waging war on the government, which in 2014 vowed to grant no safe haven to terrorists.

The attack happened in the heart of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif political base in Punjab.

In a statement, the group said: ‘We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Police cordoned off an area where crowds of people still remain, pictured metres away from a fairground ride in the park.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Pakistani rescuers use a stretcher to lift a body from a bomb blast site in Lahore which targeted Christians

https://youtu.be/MawFvl3dNKE

‘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.’

The group was previously responsible for a March 2015 bombing at a Roman Catholic church in Lahore that killed 15 people and injured 70 others

Today, eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot once the dust had settled after the blast.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
WHITE HOUSE SLAMS ‘COWARDLY ACT’ AGAINST ‘INNOCENT’ PEOPLE
***
In a statement from the White House, Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: ‘The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan.
*
‘This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured.’
*
He added that the country ‘stands with the people and government of Pakistan at this difficult hour. We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region … to root out the scourge of terrorism.’
—————————————————————

The army had been called in, he said, and soldiers were at the scene helping with rescue operations and security.

Police chief Haider Ashraf said. ‘We are in a warlike situation and there is always a general threat but no specific threat alert was received for this place.’

Salman Rafiq, a health adviser to the Punjab government, called on people to donate blood, saying that many of those wounded were in a critical condition.

A medical superintendent at Jinnah Hospital, who gave his name only as Dr Ashraf, said more than 40 dead bodies had arrived at the hospital.

‘The number of injured stands at more than 200 people, most of them are in critical condition,’ he said. I fear the death toll will rise.’

He described a nightmarish scene at the hospital, with staff treating casualties on floors and in corridors.

Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives opposite park, said the force of the blast had shattered his home’s windows.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
A boy who was injured in a suicide bomb, after which the health minister called on people to give blood so that they could treat the hundreds of casualties

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
An injured woman is taken to a hospital after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded park

‘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. 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.’

The park had been particularly busy on Sunday evening due to the Easter holiday weekend, and ambulances were seen rushing to the blast scene.

Police cordoned off an area where crowds of people still remain, pictured metres away from a fairground ride in the park.

Salman Rafique, a health adviser for the Punjab provincial government, put the death toll at least 52 people.

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
People were seen picking up the debris which was scattered on the ground after the bomb went off

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
People were carried out of the blast zone unconscious and eyewitnesses saw body parts strewn all over the floor after the bloody attack

Terrorist attacks in Pakistan, 65 dead 300 injured
Ambulances rushed to the scene and dozens of people were put on stretchers and taken to hospitals nearby

‘Most of the dead and injured are women and children,’ said Mustansar Feroz, police superintendent for the area in which the park is located.

Media footage showed children and women crying and screaming and rescue officials, police and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.

In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated jihadist fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Punjab has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan. Sharif’s opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.

Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister’s home in Punjab

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