At least 65 people, including many children, were killed on Sunday evening in a suicide attack in a crowded park in Lahore, large city in eastern Pakistan where Christians celebrated the Easter holidays.
A new report in the late evening stated that 65 people are dead and 340 others are wounded, said a spokesman for the emergency services, Deeba Shahnaz.
“The suicide bomber managed to enter the park and blew himself up near the children’s playground, where they were swinging. This is why most of the victims are children and women,” said a senior executive of the city of Lahore, Mohammad Usman.
The toll could worsen, he said.
The powerful Chief of Staff, General Raheel Sharif chaired a high level meeting and promised to “bring to justice the murderers.”
The blast occurred in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park near the city center. “It was a very strong explosion and very powerful explosives were used,” said a police official Haider Ashraf, stressing that metal balls were found on site.
Amid the chaos, rescue workers and volunteers tried to assist the injured. Debris and pools of blood littered the floor.
“I do not find my little sister. My child came home but I can not find my sister, and my niece,” said a despaired woman, Amina Bibi.
One doctor described scenes of horror to Jinnah Hospital where it operates the wounded. “We are treating wounded people on the ground and in the hallways, and they continue to come in,” he added. Calls for blood donations were circulating on Twitter.
Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and received a call from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi expressing sympathy. A three-day mourning was declared in the province of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital.
The young Pakistani, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai said she was “overwhelmed by the meaningless killing.”
The White House also condemned the “appalling terrorist act” and French President, Francois Hollande has reiterated his desire to “continue to fight against terrorism everywhere.”
The attack “casts a shadow of sadness and anguish on Easter,” responded the Vatican.
The Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park was especially crowded in spring day where minority Christians celebrated Easter on Sunday in Lahore, a city of 10 million inhabitants.
Javed Ali, whose house is located just opposite the entrance of the park, said he heard “a huge explosion (that) blew shrapnel windows.” “Everything was shaking, there were cries and dust everywhere.”
“Ten minutes later I came out. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances,” he continues.
Watch footage of suicide bomber below:
The park, where he himself was a few hours before, was “full of people because of Easter, there were many Christians there. There were so many people that I told my family not to go there.”
In Pakistan, armed Islamist groups sometimes targeted the Christian minority, which represents about 2% of the population of this predominantly Sunni Muslim country of 200 million inhabitants.
Clashes in Islamabad
Clashes also erupted in the Islamabad capital and its twin city Rawalpindi between police and thousands of supporters of an Islamist hanged last month, Mumtaz Qadri.
Some 25,000 of them had met earlier in the day in Rawalpindi for memorial prayers before advancing, armed with stones toward the checkered capital of hundreds of police and paramilitaries.
Equipped with shields and batons, police fired tear gas. The army has been deployed to ensure the safety of the area around the Parliament, where demonstrators gathered in the evening, according to a spokesman for the army.
Running February 29 Mumtaz Qadri was seen as a turning point in the fight against religious extremism in this Muslim country.
But it also rankled many Islamic currents that Mumtaz Qadri had erected to hero status in 2011 for killing Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who had supported a revision of the blasphemy law, defended tooth and nail by extremists.
Below is a video of scenes after the blast:
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