A bomb explosion outside a park in the city of Lahore in northeastern Pakistan has killed at least 65 people and injured 280 others, mostly women and children, officials say.
"Many [of the injured] are in operation theaters now being treated and we fear that the death toll may climb considerably", Salman Rafiq, a health adviser to the chief minister of Punjab province said.
A faction of Taliban, which calls itself Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesperson for the group said, “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants but he won't be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.” "The target was Christians," he said.
Mustansar Feroz, police superintendent for the area in which the park is located, said most of the injured and dead were women and children.
Local police chief Haider Ashraf said the area was crowded with Christians celebrating the Easter holidays, and many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred.
Ashraf said ball bearings had been used in the explosive.
Muhammad Usman, a top administration official, said the army had been called in on the scene to control crowds outside the park. Some distraught, sobbing relatives clashed with police and rescue officials.
Jam Sajjad Hussain, a rescue official, said the blast had occurred outside Gulshan Iqbal Park, adding that the wounded, who were mostly women and children, had been taken to various hospitals in the city.
"When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air," said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had come to the park for a walk.
Soon after the attack, the Punjab government ordered all public parks closed and announced three days of mourning in the province. The main shopping areas were shut down and many of the city's main roads were deserted. The flags on governmental buildings would also fly at half-mast during the period of the mourning.
Punjab Province, where the city is located, has traditionally experienced more calm compared to the rest of the country, which has been beleaguered by militancy waged by Pakistani Taliban and criminal activities.
Most recently, at least 17 people lost their lives when a powerful bomb explosion hit a bus carrying government employees in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa near the border with Afghanistan.