LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: At least 72 people were killed and more than 233 injured when a suicide bomb ripped through the parking space of a crowded park in Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday, officials said.
Dozens of ambulances were seen racing to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, situated near Allama Iqbal Town, with many women and children among the dead and wounded.
Rescue spokesperson Deeba Shahbaz said the toll had risen to 72 Monday, with 29 children among the dead. Senior police official Haider Ashraf confirmed the number killed, adding the majority of the dead were Muslims, AFP reported.
“Christians were not the specific target of this attack because the majority of the dead are Muslims,” he said. “Everybody goes to this park.”
Lahore’s top administration official Muhammad Usman said 233 were wounded. Late Sunday rescue officials had put the number of injured at more than 300.
Afghan president offers condolence, condemns Lahore attack
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday expressed his condolences on the loss of life in Lahore attack and condemned the cowardly act during his telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a statement said.
“Military operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan will continue unabated until the scourge of terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan,” PM Nawaz told his Afghan counterpart.
The premier said terrorists were on the run and were targeting soft targets like children and women. “Terrorism has become a serious global challenge. Unfortunately, your country is also faced with this menace,” the prime minister said.
“The scourge of terrorism and extremism has to be countered with coordinated efforts at regional and international levels,” he added.
Imran demands military operation against terrorists in Punjab
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has demanded a military operation against terrorists in Punjab.
Talking to media outside Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, where Imran arrived to inquire after victims of the Sunday’s blast, he said: “It is high time for the government to implement the National Action Plan and develop a consensus to go after terrorists in whichever province they are seeking refuge.”
The PTI chief said government had failed to provide security to the masses and that it must revisit its priorities. “Instead of spending billions of rupees on train projects, the rulers need to set their priorities right as there could be no investment without security.”
Further, Imran suggested that the police in every province should be depoliticised on an immediate basis to counter such attacks. “If we keep using the police for making personal and political gains it won’t work out,” he said.
“There should not be political-based hiring in the police and similarly the transfers and postings should not be done on political references,” he added.
Regarding his visit to the hospital, Imran said he curtailed it due to a large number of people present inside the hospital. “People are seriously injured and I didn’t go any further in the ward because there are a lot of people here and it will create difficulties for the patients,” he said.
Earlier, Imran slammed the attack and said: “It is strictly against the teachings of our Holy Prophet (pbuh) and basic principles of Islam.”
PM directs LEA’s to step up counter-terror operations in southern Punjab
PM Nawaz on Monday directed law enforcement agencies to step up counter-terror operations against terrorists and their abettors in southern Punjab, Express News reported.
The prime minister issued these orders to the LEA’s while chairing a high-level meeting at the Chief Minister House in Lahore to review the Sunday’s terror attack and overall strategy against terrorists after he visited victims at the Jinnah Hospital.
PM Nawaz said the goal of his government was not only to eliminate terror infrastructure from the country but also the extremist mind-set which, he said, was a threat to our way of life. “It is imperative for us to win the war on terror. Our resolve as a nation and as a government is getting stronger and coward enemy is trying to hit soft targets,” he said.
Further, the prime minister directed proactive coordination between law enforcement and intelligence agencies. “Provinces should speed up intelligence based operation against terrorists. We must take this war to the doors of terror outfits before they are able to hit our innocent countrymen,” he said.
“Terrorists have assassinated my kids, sons and daughters in this war and god willing we will wipe them out from this country,” the prime minister added.
Earlier, participants of the meeting were briefed by head of law enforcement and intelligence agencies on the progress made in different leads regarding the Lahore terror attack.
Several suspects arrested, arms recovered from parts of Punjab, claims ISPR
Pakistan Army along with intelligence agencies and Rangers have arrested a number of suspected terrorists and their facilitators while recovering a huge cache of arms and ammunition from different parts of Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan, ISPR said on Monday.
“Intelligence agencies with Army & Rangers carried out five operations in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan since last night,” head of military’s media wing, ISPR, Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa claimed in one of his Twitter messages.
Bajwa further said Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif was apprised of the progress of operation in the Punjab during a high-level meeting at the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi.
Punjab CM announces compensation for Lahore attack victims
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced a compensation of Rs1 million for the family of each deceased in Lahore attack, Express News reported on Monday.
The provincial chief minister further announced Rs0.3 million for the injured and Rs0.15 million for those who received minor injuries in the incident.
PM arrives in Lahore
The prime minister arrived in Lahore early on Monday morning. The premier was accompanied by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.
PM Nawaz also visited victims of the blast at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.
The army had been called in, he said, and soldiers were at the scene helping with rescue operations and security.
Senior police official Haider Ashraf said the blast appeared to be a suicide attack, adding that ball bearings were found at the crowded park.
A medical superintendent at Jinnah Hospital, who gave his name only as Dr Ashraf, told AFP more than 40 dead bodies had arrived at the hospital.
“The number of injured stands at more than 200 people, most of them are in critical condition,” he said. I fear the death toll will rise.”
He described a nightmarish scene at the hospital, with staff treating casualties on floors and in corridors.
Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives opposite park, said the force of the blast had shattered his home’s windows.
“Everything was shaking, there were cries and dust everywhere.
“After ten minutes I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances.”
He added: “It was overcrowded because of Easter, there were a lot of Christians there. It was so crowded I told my family not to go.”
Witnesses describe children screaming as people carried the injured in their arms. Doctors describe frenzied scenes at hospitals, with staff treating casualties on floors and in corridors.
Meanwhile, all schools under the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation remained closed on Monday, Express News reported.
Punjab chief minister announces three days of mourning
Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced three-day mourning after the suicide attack.
He also sought a report from IG Punjab about the incident.
US condemns ‘cowardly attack’
The United States condemned as “cowardly” the suicide attack, vowing to work with Pakistan to defeat those sowing terror in the country.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan,” National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said in a White House statement.
“This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured.”
“We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region, as together we will be unyielding in our efforts to root out the scourge of terrorism,” added Price.
British PM condemns the Lahore blast
“I’m shocked by the terrorist attack in Lahore. My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims. We will do what we can to help,” David Cameron tweeted.
Modi telephones PM Nawaz Sharif, condemns blast
Indian’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned PM Nawaz and expressed his grief over Lahore bomb blast.
“The coward terrorists attacked children and women” Modi said on Sunday. “It’s condemnable to attack innocent children and women. We are with Pakistani nation at the time of this grief movement.”
TTP’s Jamaatul Ahrar claims responsibility
A Pakistan Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide attack.
“We carried out the Lahore attack as Christians are our target,” Ehansullah Ehsan, spokesman for the hardline Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He said the group would carry out more such attacks, vowing to target schools and colleges alongside government and military interests.
COAS chairs high-level meeting
Following the blast, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif chaired a high-level meeting in Rawalpindi.
According to the ISPR, the army chief directed the authorities concerned to find linkages and perpetrators of the Lahore blast at the earliest.
I am devastated by the senseless killing of innocent people in Lahore, Malala Yousufzai said in a statement following the attack.
UN’s Ban condemns ‘appalling’ attack
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday condemned the Easter Day suicide bombing, calling it an “appalling” act of terrorism.
“The secretary general strongly condemns the suicide bombing today at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in the Pakistani city of Lahore,” a UN statement said.
“The secretary general calls for the perpetrators of this appalling terrorist act to be brought swiftly to justice, consistent with human rights obligations.”
Ban called on the Islamabad government “to do its utmost to put in place protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals, including religious minority communities living in the country.”
The UN secretary-general added that he “extends his heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families, and expresses his solidarity with the people and government of Pakistan.”
Erdogan expresses condolences
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the prime minister and conveyed condolences on the loss of life in Lahore attack.
According to a statement, the PM said terrorism had become a serious global challenge, and reiterated condemnation of terrorist attacks in Turkey, including the recent incident in Ankara.