At least 69 killed in suicide blast in Lahore park
A large number of people including Christians were present in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Iqbal Town area when the powerful blast occurred at 6.40pm, leaving many in a pool of blood.
“It was suicide attack. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside the park,” Deputy Inspector General Lahore Police Haider Asharaf said. “It has been confirmed that it was a suicide blast. Some 10 to 15 kilogramme explosive might have been used in the blast.”
District Coordination Officer Lahore retired Capt Muhammad Usman said the head of the suicide bomber was recovered. Ball bearings were also found at the site.
He, however, ruled out that Christians were the target of the attack. “It was not a Christian park. Christians may be among the dead.”
“The death toll has climbed to 69. More than 300 people have been injured,” a Punjab government spokesman said.
Another official said the park was a soft target.
“Terrorists targeted children and the minority community to achieve their nefarious designs,” he said.
“The death toll may rise as a number of injured are in critical condition,” Punjab minister Bilal Yasin said.
An official of the Punjab police said the suicide bomber -- believed to be in his 20s -- managed to enter the park and blew himself up near the swings. “It appears that the suicide bomber’s main target were children,” he said.
The park is located in a posh-locality in Lahore -- a comparatively peaceful city in an otherwise violence-wracked Pakistan which is also the hometown of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The army has joined rescue officials to shift the injured to hospitals. An emergency has been declared in city hospitals and appeals have been made to people to donate blood.
Eyewitnesses said there were scattered body parts all around the park, where a large number of families, especially women and children, were present on a Sunday evening. The crowd was “unusually large” because of Easter.
“My two children were taking swings when a powerful blast occurred. Me and the children fell on the ground. I was semi-unconscious. When I fully regained consciousness I ran to find my children,” Saleem Shahid, one of the injured in the blast, said at a city hospital where he was being treated.
His children sustained injuries in the blast. “Thank God! They were alive having injuries on their head. I tore my shirt and made a bandage of it,” Shahid said.
Many eyewitnesses said there was no security in and around the park.
“Still a good number of people are in critical condition,” Emergency Services Rescue spokesperson Deeba Shahnaz said. Punjab government has announced a three-day mourning in the province. Several leaders, including Prime Minister Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan, have condemned the blast. Christians leaders also strongly condemned the attack.