The Taliban have taken credit for an Easter Sunday suicide bombing targeting an area frequented by Christians in Lahore, Pakistan, killing approximately 65 and injuring as many as 300.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest near swing sets at the Gulshan-e-Iqba park, an area frequented by the Christian community in the predominantly Muslim city of Lahore.
“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, a man who was walking near the site of the bombing. Most of those killed and injured were women and children, according to police commissioner Mustansar Feroz.
Salman Rafique, a health official for the Punjab government, said the death toll may rise “considerably,” as many of the wounded are still being treated. The casualty rate was so high, taxis and auto-rickshaws had to be used as makeshift ambulances in order to transport the dead and wounded. Hundreds of local residents came out to donate blood in response to the attacks, reported Reuters.
Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility shortly after the attack.
“The target was Christians,” said Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for the terrorist group. “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,” continued Ehsan.
The White House responded by condemning the attacks.
“The United States 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,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security Council in a statement.
Both the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban have seen a resurgence, with both countries falling victim to several attacks in recent months. Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) engaged in an assault on Bacha Khan university in late January, killing 21. Syed Hamind, a professor at the university, was credited with saving many lives after returning fire on the Taliban forces with his personal weapon. A similar attack occurred in December 2014 when Taliban forces raided a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing 145 people, mostly children.
The White House has pledged its support to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, to help “root out the scourge of terrorism.”
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