Taliban attack on Easter targets Christians; 67 people killed in Pakistan

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LAHORE, Pakistan — A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on Easter Sunday, saying it intentionally targeted Christians.

The suicide blast in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore killed at least 67 people, a local government spokesman told CNN.

More than 300 others were injured, police official Haider Ashraf said.

The explosion ripped through the heart of Lahore on Sunday evening, at a time when many families were at the city’s Gulshan Iqbal Park to celebrate the Easter holiday. Many women and children were among the victims.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban known as Jamat-ul-Ahrar vowed such attacks would continue.

Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast.

International condemnation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has worked to thaw the icy relations between the two neighbors, called Sharif on Sunday to express his grief over the bombing.

The Indian leader expressed solidarity with Pakistan, the Pakistani state-run news agency reported.

“Modi said coward terrorists had targeted females and kids which was highly condemnable and regrettable,” according to the state-run agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan.

The United States also condemned the attack.

“This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

History of violence

In March last year, suicide bombers attacked a Christian community, also in Lahore, setting off two blasts that killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack too and warned of more to come.

The explosions, which struck the Nishtar Colony area in the city of Lahore, wounded at least 78 people, Dr. Muhammed Saeed Sohbin, medical superintendent at Lahore General Hospital, said then.

In 2013, suicide bombers struck a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 people.