Pakistan: Suicide bomber targets Christians in deadly Easter Day attack

[Minority Concern of Pakistan] At least 70 people have been killed, including 29 children, and more than 340 injured in a suicide blast on Easter Day at Gulshan Iqbal Park, Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, Pakistan. About 3,000 people were visiting the park at the time of blast.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the exit gate of the park where many Christians, mainly women and children, were celebrating Easter following prayer services. So far, bodies of 10 Christian families have been identified. According to The News, children were playing on swings and enjoying other recreational facilities available in the park along with their parents when the attacker struck at 6:35 p.m. Many eyewitnesses told media that there was no security in and around the park.

Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

Bishop Samuel Azariah, moderator of the Church of Pakistan (United), posted a video message on his Facebook page shortly after the bombing. He said some of the victims were members of his Diocese of Raiwind. “Please keep us in your prayers and may this time of Easter, the celebration of Christ’s victory over death and grave, be a meaningful and a consoling experience for many of our people who are in the hospital at the moment,” he said.

The Punjab government announced three days of mourning in memory of the victims, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting after the blast to review the security situation in the country.

Terrorist attacks targeting Christians are not uncommon in Pakistan. In March 2015, 21 people were killed and more than 80 injured in suicide attacks by the Taliban at two churches in Youhanabad, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore. In September 2013, Taliban suicide bombers attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where more than 80 were killed, and about 120 people were injured. The majority of them were women and children.

The alleged suicide bomber in the Easter Day attack was identified as Mohammad Yousaf from district Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab. The Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) said March 28 that a number of alleged terrorists and their facilitators have been arrested in anti-terrorism raid conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan.

— Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of the Minority Concern of Pakistan magazine and former national executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan.

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