At least 69 people have been killed and more than 280 injured in a suicide bombing attack on a park in Lahore. Most of the victims are women and children from Pakistan's Christian community who were enjoying the Easter weekend. The attack has been claimed by a Pakistani Taliban faction which said it had targeted Christians.
The explosion occurred in a car park close to the children's swings in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. The park is popular with Lahore's Christian community and was packed with families celebrating the Easter weekend. According to a senior police officer, many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred.
'The target were Christians'
The Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
"The target were Christians," a spokesman for the faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan, told the Reuters news agency while the Pakistan Express Tribune reports that he said, "We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter."
"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 attack is the latest atrocity visited on Pakistan's hard-pressed Christian community. Pakistan rose to number 6 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List. The nation's infamous blasphemy laws continue to be abused to settle personal scores, particularly against minorities, including Christians.
Indeed, in the capital, Islamabad, police fired tear gas at an estimated 25,000 protesters, who were marching in support of the late Mumtaz Qadri, who was recently executed for the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer five years ago. The protesters see the assassin as a religious hero. He killed Taseer because the governor had defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.
This attack is a painful reminder that, for persecuted Christians around the world, festivals such as Easter and Christmas are too often accompanied by violence and death.
Stand with your church family in Pakistan
- Give. In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Pakistan through training, emergency aid to victims of violent persecution, women's ministry, Bible literacy and counselling and trauma therapy. You can support our work with your gifts.
- Pray. Use the prayer points below, and consider sharing them with your church or small group.
Source: BBC; Reuters; Guardian; al Jazeera; Express Tribune
- For healing and protection for the victims of this attack
- For special protection and comfort for Asia Bibi and her family during this time of heightened tensions
- That the authorities will support the Christian minority in Pakistan and bring the perpetrators to justice
- For protection for Christian minorities around the world.
BBC: Pakistan explosion leaves many dead at Lahore park
Guardian: Scores killed in suicide blast aimed at Christians in Lahore children's park