ISLAMABAD—A breakaway Pakistani faction of the militant Taliban group has claimed responsibility for an Easter Sunday bombing that killed 65 people in a park in the eastern city of Lahore that was crowded with Christians, including many children.
Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, told the Associated Press that a suicide bomber with the faction deliberately targeted the Christian community.
The explosion took place near the children’s rides in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park local police chief Haider Ashraf said. He said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, but investigations were ongoing.
The attack killed 65 people and wounded over 300, said Deeba Shahnaz, a spokesman for Lahore rescue administration.
The park was manned by police and private security guards, 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,” he added.
Schools and businesses in the city will remain closed on Monday, the city’s schools association and the Union of Lahore Traders said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a meeting to assess the security situation in Lahore, according to a government statement. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, also convened an emergency meeting of the country’s intelligence agencies to begin to track down those responsible for the attacks, said army spokesman Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa.
One witness, who wished to be identified only by his first name, Afzal, told AP that he had taken 20 children to hospital and carried three dead bodies to a police car. “I can’t explain to you the tragic situation,” he said.
Footage broadcast on local television stations showed chaotic scenes in the park, with people running while carrying children and cradling the wounded in their laps.