Jamaatul Ahrar claims responsibility; 3-day mourning announced; President, PM, Imran, Bilawal condemn suicide blast
Lahore—A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a park of the metropolis here, killing 69 people and injuring more than 300 others, police and rescue official said on Sunday.
The blast took place just outside the exit gate No 1 and a few feet away from children’s swings at the Allama Iqbal Park in Iqbal Town.
The Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack, saying the target of its attack was Muslim Pakistan’s small Christian minority.
“The target were Christians,” said a spokesman for the faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan.
“We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants but he won´t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.”
The dead and injured, most of them women and children, were shifted to various hospitals where an emergency was declared after the blast.
Police, Army personnel, Bomb Disposal Squad and forensic experts reached the park and placed a cordon to gather evidence. DIG Operations Haider Ashraf said evidence suggest the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber but further investigation would determine the exact nature of the blast.
The injured were shifted to Jinnah Hospital, Ganga Ram Hospital, Farooq Hospital, General Hospital and Sheikh Zayed Hospital. Park employees said the park was packed with people since it was Sunday and Easter Day. Hospital sources said more casualties were feared as some of the injured were in critical condition.
The suicide bomber is said to have been identified as Yousuf, son of Ghulam Farid, a resident of Muzaffargarh district, born on January 1, 1988. DCO Captain (Retd) Muhammad Usman said the head of the suicide bomber was recovered. Ball bearings were also found at the site.
Captain Usman said the attack might have taken place on the day of Easter but Christian community doesn’t seem to be the target of the brutal attack.
The blast occurred at around 6:40pm. As a result of the blast, windows of nearby buildings were shattered and damage was done to various structures.
Those who died in the blast included eight people belonging to a same family. The aggrieved family member Zubair talking to media said his eight family members died in the blast while two of his family members are still missing. He said the four family members came from outside the city to visit Lahore while the four were residents of New Mozang and at the time of explosion he was just twenty feet away from the spot of the explosion.
Iqbal Town Superintendent of Police Dr Muhammad Iqbal said the explosion was a suicide attack and took place in a children’s park, where a large number of families, especially women and children, were present on a Sunday evening. Eye witnesses said there were pools of blood and scattered body parts in the park.
An eyewitness said dead bodies and injured were on the ground everywhere. “We took the injured to hospitals on rickshaws and taxis.” He said the crowd was “unusually large” because of Easter. “The roads were also jammed and queues of vehicles could be seen till Moon Market.”
Many eyewitnesses said there was no security present in and around the park. A man, talking to media, said: “The park is huge and has many entrance gates. There were almost negligible security personnel present there.”
A Rescue 1122 spokesman confirmed that an emergency call was received at around 6:44pm and that over 20 ambulances reached the site.
Provincial Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique appealed to the citizens to donate blood in the hospitals.
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.
Dozens of ambulances were seen racing to the park, situated near the centre of the city with many women and children among the dead and wounded.
The army was called in and soldiers were at the scene helping with rescue operations and security.
A medical superintendent at Jinnah Hospital, who gave his name only as Dr Ashraf, told media more than 40 dead bodies had arrived at the hospital.
He described a nightmarish scene at the hospital, with staff treating casualties on floors and in corridors.
One man said, “It (park) was overcrowded because of Easter, there were a lot of Christians there. It was so crowded I told my family not to go.”
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have expressed thier grief and shock over the loss of precious lives in the deadly blast in the heart of Lahore.
The President said that such cowardice acts could not shake the nation’s resolve against the menace of extremism and terrorism. He said security and safety to the life and property of each citizen would be ensured and the operation Zarb-e-Azb would continue till elimination of the terrorism. The government would fully protect its citizens, he added.
The Prime Minister strongly condemned the blast incident and expressed his grief and sorrow over the
loss of innocent lives. He also directed the authorities to ensure special medical care to the injured.
Reacting over the incident Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said: “I strongly condemn the terror attack in Lahore in which innocent citizens including women and children have lost their lives”. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party strongly condemning the suicide attack said that terrorists were choosing innocent targets to scare the people of Pakistan, hold them hostage and drift the history against the imaginations and vision of the founding fathers of the country.
Bilawal Bhutto said such coward attacks won’t be able to quell the commitment and valour of the nation to fight the monster of terrorism. “Narrative built against the terrorism by PPP and other democratic parties through huge sacrifices won’t reverse,” he added.
He pointed out that such attacks by terrorists in Punjab require stern action and operation against the so far untouched quarters of terror nurseries. He expressed sympathies with those who lost their loved ones in the attack and asked the government for best possible medical facilities to the injured.