Taliban's Easter Bombing Kills 65 in Pakistan
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – At least 65 people were killed and hundreds injured, many of them children, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded park in the Pakistani city of Lahore where Christians were celebrating Easter Sunday.
Officials said the bomber had detonated the explosives packed with ball bearings near a children's playing area in the popular Gulshan-i-Iqbal park.
Witnesses said they could hear children screaming as people carried the injured in their arms, while frantic relatives searched for loved ones in nightmarish scenes at the park near the center of the city of eight million.
Doctors described frenzied scenes at hospitals, with staff treating casualties on floors and in corridors, as officials tweeted calls for blood donations.
"It was a suicide attack. The bomber managed to enter the park and blew himself up near the kids' playing area where kids were on the swings," Lahore's top administration official Muhammad Usman told AFP.
Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives opposite the park, said the force of the blast had shattered his home's windows.
"After ten minutes I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances.
"It was overcrowded because of Easter, there were a lot of Christians there. It was so crowded I told my family not to go."
Yousaf Masih, a father who was searching for his family, told AFP: "My kids came here (to the park). I was at home, I saw the news on TV, but my wife and children were here."
Witnesses said the wounded were first rushed to hospital in rickshaws and other vehicles before dozens of ambulances arrived on the scene.
Usman said the death toll had reached 65 people, with more than 50 children among the injured. A Lahore rescue official confirmed the toll and said the number of injured stood at 340.
The attack was the year's deadliest, with officials saying the toll was set to rise.
There was no official confirmation of who was behind the attack late Sunday.
Sunday's blast was condemned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who "expressed grief and sorrow over the sad demise of innocent lives," according to a statement by his office.
He was later phoned by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi who said "the people of India stand with their Pakistani brethren in this hour of grief", according to state media.
The Vatican condemned the attack, calling it "fanatical violence against Christian minorities."
The United States meanwhile labelled the incident "cowardly" and "appalling", while Pakistan's Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai tweeted: "Pakistan and the world must unite. Every life is precious and must be respected and protected."
A military spokesman described the blast as a "suicide attack", adding that intelligence agencies were chasing all leads. Lahore officials said the army had been called to the scene of the attack.
On social media Pakistanis were retweeting the call for blood donations, while Facebook activated its "Safety Check" for Lahore.
The government of Punjab province declared three days mourning.