Taliban park death at Gulshan-e-Iqbal

| 65 killed as bomber targets families - mostly Christians celebrating Easter

LAHORE - A suicide bomber struck children-on-swings and their relatives in Lahore’s Gulshen-e-Iqbal (park) shortly after sunset yesterday, leaving at least 65 people dead and over 340 wounded.
Hospital officials feared the death toll could sharply rise given the high number of wounded, several of whom were critical.
At the time of the blast hundreds of families were in the park, stretching over several acres of land in the heart of the city which is frequented by lower middle class members.
It being a public holiday, the rush was huge and several of the victims were Christians who had come there to celebrate Easter.
Soon after the blast long queues of ambulances were seen racing towards the hospitals, pushing their way through the city traffic. The injured were admitted to seven different public and private hospitals which made public appeals for blood donations to the hundreds of victims.
“We have removed at least 65 dead bodies to the morgue. Over 340 injured are shifted to hospitals,” said Muhammad Younis, a spokesman for the Edhi foundation which runs free ambulance service to help victims of disasters and tragedies.
So far, he said, only 20 dead bodies could be identified by police. At least 15 children and over 22 women were among the dead.
“We fear the death toll could swell further as many victims are undergoing surgeries in the intensive care units,” Salman Rafique, an adviser of the chief minister on health told reporters outside the Jinnah hospital.
Mingled and twisted around each other, several charred bodies were lying in pools of blood when rescuers reached the spot. Some young children and women were seen soaked in blood, crying and screaming with pain.
At least eight members of a family were among the dead. A young couple who married three months ago also lost their lives.
Police officer Muhammad Iqbal, whose office was located close to the park, told The Nation that most of the injured and the dead were women and children. “A nine-year-old boy has lost both of his legs,” he said.
Amid speculations that the bombing could be a reaction from Indian spy agency RAW to the arrest of its high profile spymaster Kul Bushen Yadev from Balochistan few days ago, A Taliban faction claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
“The target was Christians,” said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. “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,” he said in the message emailed to different media organisations.
The security agencies of Pakistan have long been accusing RAW of funding Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has carried out most of the deadliest attacks in the country over past several years.
The Lahore blast coincided with the clashes and violence in the federal capital Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi, where thousands of religious activists took to streets to protest against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri and demanding imposition of Sharia law in the country.
Police security was already heightened across Lahore, particularly around the churches on Sunday, as Christians were celebrating Easter with religious zeal and fervor.
It was unclear yet how many of the dead and injured were Christians as authorities were busy in making lists of the wounded and dead until the filing of this report around midnight.
“What kind of crime they (victims) had committed? They were here in the park just to have fun. Why they were butchered? Why they were killed,” asked a grieved Ahmed Salman, a relative of the one of the victims.
Some of the injured were taken to hospitals on private cars and auto-rickshaws as ambulances were unable to pick such a large number of victims.
“I was standing near the swing when the blast took place. It was very powerful blast. I don’t know what happened then. I was on a hospital bed as I opened my eyes,” said 17-year-old Zeeshan.
“It was a terrible blast. I never heard such a huge bang in my whole life,” said 60-year-old Fatima Bibi who was under treatment in the Sheikh Zayed Hospital.
All the dead bodies were moved to the Mayo hospital’s morgue. Edhi Foundation announced free of cost coffins and burial boxes for the victims.
The injured were shifted to the Sheikh Zayed Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Services Hospital, Mayo Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Ganga Ram Hospital and Farooq Hospital.
Moving scenes were witnessed outside public hospitals where relatives of the victims were waiting impatiently to know about their loved ones. A 50-year-old Muhammad Ashraf and his wife were seen desperately searching for their 12-year-old son outside Sheikh Zayed Hospital.
Ashraf said his son went to the park with other relatives. “Oh my Allah, where is my son, my only son. Save us and protect us!” he cried as he pushed through the crowd to enter a hospital ward.
Hasan Imran, 30, a local resident who had gone to the park for a walk told Reuters news agency: “When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air.”
The police late night registered the case of bombing. According to a TV channel report, the suicide bomber was identified as Yousuf, son of Ghulam Farid, a resident of district Muzzafargarh, born January 1, 1988. The police have arrested two of his brothers following the attack, it said.
Earlier, forensic experts and intelligence operatives were seen collecting evidences from the crime scene. Medical officers said most of the injured had multiple wounds, suggesting that ball bearings and shrapnel were used in the bomb.

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