By Xavier P. William, Special Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Lahore, Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christians were among those searching for loved ones Monday, March 28, after a suicide bomber ripped through the laughter of children killing at least 72 people and injuring more than 350 in a park in Pakistan’s second-largest city of Lahore, where the Christian community celebrated Easter.
“My whole world has ended, ” said Mary John, a mother of three who was in tears while looking for her children following Sunday’s blast in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. “My children insisted to come to the park to enjoy themselves, now I cannot find them, I have lost everything,” she told BosNewsLife.
“There was blood and bodies everywhere, it was devastating, I almost fainted” explained John Masih a young man who was at the park with his family.
Among those who died is a family of 7 members who arrived in Lahore from Sanghar in southeast Pakistan, BosNewsLife learned. Eight teenagers from Youhanabad area in Lahore were also seen among the deceased. “A large number of people, majority of them women and children, were present in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore when the suicide bomber blew himself up,” confirmed Lahore Police Chief Haider Ashraf.
“Most of the dead and injured are women and children,” said Mustansar Feroz, the police superintendent for the area in which the park is located. Police officials said they had recovered the body of the suicide bomber who seemed between 25 and 30 years old.
A splinter group of the Islamic militant Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA), headed by Maulvi Omar Khalid Khurasani, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Lahore, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
“Experts say nearly 20 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. There were four attackers, three ran away and one exploded himself, ” Ashraf said. He added there was an unusual high number of people in the park due to the weekend and Easter, including many Christians.
Troops were deployed at the scene, but that was of little comfort for survivors amid reports that all hospitals in Lahore faced a tragic situation due to a shortage of beds. Many injured people were treated on the floors.
Christian leaders and other religious figures have condemned “the brutality” and visited the injured at the local Services hospital and Jinnah hospital. They were also involved in arranging blood donations and vowed to stand united against extremism.
The Christian aid and advocacy group Life For All Pakistan said in a statement to BosNewsLife that “Religious intolerance, sectarian violence and blatant terrorism is destroying the very core of our social fabric.”
In a statement to BosNewsLife the group said that in “a plural Islamic Society, which is what we must aspire and strive to become, there is no place for intolerance, violence and appeasement of extremist groups who are trying to make our nation hostage to their obscurantist ideology.”
However the group warned: “Make no mistake, the Pakistani military is fighting a decisive battle to crush them. We know their days are numbered and Pakistan’s better days are ahead of us.” It urged Pakistanis to “how resolve in fighting and crushing these extremists and bringing back peace and stability to our beloved country.”
Yet, the latest blast in what is Pakistan’s Punjab province underscored concerns among minority Christians in Pakistan who have faced deadly bombings and attacks in the past.
Thousands have fled Pakistan in recent years, including to Thailand.
Punjab Chief Minister, Shabaz Sharif later announced a three-day mourning in the province.
(With editing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)
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