Blast tears through crowded park in Lahore, killing at least 69 people and injuring scores of others, according to local officials
UPDATES WITH INCREASED DEATH TOLL, REPORTS OF CLAIM OF RESPONSIBILITY
By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded park in Lahore on Sunday evening, killing at least 69 people and injuring 300 others, Salman Rafiq, health minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, has said.
According to police, the bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest in a crowded area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, located in a northern district of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and the regional capital of Punjab province.
In a statement, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a group affiliated with Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing — an unusual occurrence in an otherwise peaceful part of the country. The group’s spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, said the target of the attack was an Easter celebration.
The injured, 25 of whom are in critical condition, included several women and children.
Footage broadcast on local television channels showed rescue workers and concerned citizens loading the dead and injured onto ambulances.
The government, for its part, has declared a state of emergency at the city’s hospitals while doctors predict a dramatic rise in the current death toll.
The army, meanwhile, has been called up to assist in first-aid and rescue efforts.
Army chief presided over an emergency meeting after the blast, reportedly directing intelligence agencies to speed up efforts to dismantle the networks involved in the terrorist attack. He woved the culprits involved in the attack will be brought to justice.
Pieces of human flesh and blood-soaked clothing could be seen scattered around the blast site.
TV footage showed several injured people lying on the ground and crying for help.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the attack, vowing to continue Pakistan’s war on terrorism “despite these cowardly acts”. The premier has also cancelled a visit to the U.K. after the Lahore blast. He is expected to travel to the U.S. on Tuesday to participate in a nuclear security conference.