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Taliban suicide attack kills at least 70 people in Pakistani park

By Shawn Price and Danielle Haynes   |   Updated March 28, 2016 at 6:15 AM

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 27 (UPI) -- The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for suicide attack at a public park in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, killing at least 70 people and injuring more than 300.

Most of the injured and dead are women and children, Jam Sajjad Hussain, a spokesman for emergency service Rescue 1122 said, according to Sky News.

Dawn news reported the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat ul Ahrar said it was behind the blast.

The group's spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said they deliberately targeted Christians celebrating Easter and wanted to send a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the Islamic militant group "have entered Lahore." Ehsan threatened more attacks.

The attack, which could be heard for blocks, is believed to have been the work of a single bomber who blew himself up near the children's playground area at the entrance to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, which was packed with people for the Easter holiday.

After finding the remains of the bomber, police described him to be about 25-30 years old. Early police reports suggest the bomb was made of a mix of at least 45 pounds of explosives, nuts and bolts or ball bearings.

Sharif expressed "grief and sorrow over the sad demise of innocent lives" and has postponed a trip to Britain and the United States. He also declared a three-day mourning period in Punjab province.

The Punjab government argued there were people of all backgrounds in the park, so the group could not have target Christians exclusively.

Haider Ashraf, director inspector general of operations, said the injured were taken to hospitals on rishaws and in taxis.

An emergency has been declared at all government hospitals in the city and a heavy contingent of police has cordoned off the area.

The country has had regular incidents of Taliban-related violence, sectarian strife and criminal gang activity, the BBC reported.

Lahore, however, is Sharif's political powerbase and is the wealthy capital city of Punjab, Pakistan's largest and wealthiest province. By comparison, it has seen relatively few terrorist attacks.

Christians have accused the government of doing little more than offering condolences, and have been unwilling to provide real protection.

Christians make up about 1.6 percent of Pakistan's population and live mostly in Karachi. Attacks on Christians have increased in recent years.

Topics: Nawaz Sharif
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