Pakistani authorities are hunting members of a Taliban faction which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a park in Lahore that left at least 70 people dead. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar group is an off-shoot of the Taliban and has previously declared loyalty to Islamic State. The blast that targeted Christians at an Easter day out, hitting a crowd of families, is the group’s fifth bombing since December.
Among the dead from yesterday’s blast are 29 children who were playing in the park at the time. Another 50 children are among those hurt. Markets, schools and offices are shut as the city mourns victims and funerals begin to take place. In response to the attack, Pakistan is launching a paramilitary crackdown in the Punjab province targeting Islamist militants, according to Reuters.
Rangers are being given powers to carry out raids and interrogate suspects, a security official has told the news agency. One military leader tweeted: “Number of suspect terrorists and facilitators arrested and huge cache of arms and ammunition recovered.” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been touring hospitals and speaking to the injured.
Footage taken immediately after the bombing shows women and children being carried to ambulances. Witness told how the park was strewn with body parts and one person who lives nearby said the explosion shattered his home’s windows. “Everything was shaking – there were cries and dust everywhere,” he said.
“After 10 minutes I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances.”