An explosion near a park in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed at least 50 people Sunday and injured dozens more, local officials reported. The blast occurred Sunday evening at the main gate to Gulshan-e-Iqbal park.
Many Pakistani Christians had gathered in the park to celebrate Easter after church services. There is speculation that Christian families out for the Easter weekend may have been the target, says the BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil, in Lahore.
Iqbal Town Superintendent Police Dr Muhammad Iqbal confirmed this was a suicide attack that took place at a children’s park, where a large number of families, especially women and children, were present.
The area is a renowned residential area of Lahore. The blast was just outside the exit gate and a few feet (metres) away from the children’s swings.
DCO Captain (Retd) Muhammad Usman said the head of the suicide bomber was recovered. Ball bearings were also found at the site. He added that the crowd was “unusually large” because of Easter. He, however, ruled out that Christians were the target of the attack. “It was not a Christian park. Christians may be among the dead.”
An official of the Punjab police told PTI that 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. Most of the dead and injured are women and children, a senior local police officer told Reuters news agency.
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. Earlier on Sunday, the prime minister had shared a post on Facebook to celebrate Easter for “Christians all over the world and particularly the Christian community in Pakistan.”
An emergency was declared at all government hospitals in the city. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Pakistani Taliban regularly launches terror attacks and bombings inside the country.
The Punjab government announced three days of mourning.