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Pakistan mourns Lahore park victims

Child's funeral - 28 March

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AFP

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Dozens of children were among the dead

People in Pakistan are mourning the deaths of more than 70 people including 29 children in a suicide attack in a Lahore park.

The regional government announced three days of mourning, with one day declared in other parts of Pakistan.

Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it carried out the attack and targeted Christians celebrating Easter.

At least 300 people were injured, with officials saying they expected the death toll to rise.

The area was more crowded than usual, as Lahore’s minority Christians had gathered to celebrate Easter at a funfair in the park.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited some of the injured in hospital and has met security officials to plan a response.

Muslims also died in the attack. At least one funeral was held on Monday.


Analysis: M Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

The bombing of the amusement park in Lahore on Easter Sunday was the bloodiest on Christians in Pakistan since the 2013 Peshawar church bombing that killed more than 80 people.

But many believe there may be a wider context to the latest attack – 27 March was the deadline set by an alliance of more than 30 religious groups for the provincial government of Punjab to withdraw a new women’s rights law they oppose.

And supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, a police guard executed last month for the 2011 killing of a provincial governor who advocated reform of the blasphemy laws, have also launched protests. They brought forward the customary 40th day mourning for Qadri by 13 days to coincide with 27 March and several thousand have now occupied a high-security zone in Islamabad to press demands which include the implementation of Sharia law.

Sunday’s carnage in Lahore was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an increasingly effective faction of the Pakistani Taliban which has carried out several attacks in the north-western Peshawar valley region during the last few months.

Why can’t Pakistan stop the militants?

Indians pray for Lahore


There were scenes of anguish as parents searched for children amid the debris.

Meanwhile Facebook has apologised after a programme glitch resulted in users around the world being sent a notification to let friends know they were safe after the attack, meant only for subscribers in the Lahore area.

Facebook had been criticised for deploying the Safety Check application more readily if Westerners were the likely victims.

‘Savage inhumans’

The government of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, declared a state of emergency in the city and three days of mourning.

Schools and markets in the province were closed on Monday.

Media captionThe BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil saw dozens of ambulances race to Gulshan-e-Iqbal park

Military spokesman Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted: “We must bring the killers of our innocent brothers, sisters and children to justice and will never allow these savage inhumans to over-run our life and liberty.”

Lahore is one of Pakistan’s most liberal and wealthy cities. It is Mr Sharif’s political powerbase and has seen relatively few terror attacks in recent years.

A spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said the group wanted to send a message to Mr Sharif that they “have entered Lahore”, and threatened further attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a breakaway group from Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. It has carried out several other attacks on Pakistani civilians and security forces in recent months.

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EPA

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The scene of the attack was littered with debris, which officials were searching through for evidence

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EPA

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The park was more crowded than usual, as Lahore’s Christians celebrated Easter Day at its funfair

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AP

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Police stood guard at the scene after the attack

The explosion, believed to have been carried out by one suicide bomber, hit the main gate to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in the early evening, a short distance from the children’s playground.

Officials said the device had been packed with ball bearings.

Police chief Haider Ashraf said the park had been a soft target for the militants, saying that while Pakistan is “in a warlike situation” there had been no specific alert issued for the park.

Pakistan has suffered regular incidents of Taliban-related violence, sectarian strife and criminal gang activity.


Pakistan’s Christians

  • Estimated to make up about 1.6% of the population, they are the second largest minority in Pakistan after Hindus
  • Large population in Karachi but also in the Punjab heartland and the cities of Lahore and Faisalabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province particularly in Peshawar city.
  • Majority are descendants of low-caste Hindus who converted under the British Raj
  • Most remain poor menial workers, though there are wealthier Christians who came from Goa and are mainly in Karachi
  • Attacks, including church and hospital bomb blasts and mob attacks on Christian villages, have increased in recent years; the deadliest involved two bombs at a Peshawar church in 2013 which left around 80 dead

Read more: Who are Pakistan’s Christians?


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