At least 65 people have been killed and over 300 others injured in a suicide blast outside a public park in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, health ministry officials said.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the capital, Islamabad, said that people from the Christian community were out to celebrate Easter in the park when the bomber detonated himself. Hyder added that the park is popular with families and children.
The Pakistani Taliban faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesperson of the group, in a statement said that Christians were the target.
The blast occurred at 6:40pm local time in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a few metres away from children’s swings, officials said on Sunday.
Salman Rafique, a health adviser for the Punjab provincial government, told Reuters news agency that “most of the dead and injured are women and children”.
“The blast was massive and has caused a lot of damage and fatalities,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the emergency service “Rescue 112” told Al Jazeera.
“I was a few blocks away from the blast, many people were running and screaming like the world has collapsed,” Mian Ashraf told Al Jazeera.
“Until when will we see our loved ones getting killed in such attacks?”
Police also confirmed that it was a suicide attack, adding that the death toll might go up.
In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Lahore is the capital of Punjab, which has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan.
Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister’s home in Punjab.
Earlier in March, a bomb planted on a bus carrying government officials exploded in northern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people.
A suicide bomber killed 13 people on March 8 after blowing himself up outside a court in Charsadda, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about 30km from Peshawar.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies