Lahore suicide attack: Scores dead in blast targeting Christians on Easter day

Taliban claims responsibility for the attack saying it targeted Christians celebrating Easter.

Close to 70 people were killed in Pakistan's Lahor when a suicide bomber set off a massive explosion in a public park on Sunday.

The Easter day massacre had targeted Pakistan's minority Christians who gathered at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for celebrating the religious festival.

More than 300 people were wounded in the attack, which occurred near the children's swings in the park, a popular hangout of the Christian community of the city.

"When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air," a witness who spoke to Reuters said.

Most of the causalities were women and children, police Superintendant Mustansar Feroz said.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of Taliban, said its suicide bomber carried out the attack in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political power base.

"We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter," Taliban spokesperson Ehansullah Ehsan told Pakistan's Express Tribune daily.

"The target was Christians ... 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," he added.

Punjab government ordered the closure of all public parks immediately after the blast.

Toll could rise

Health officials said the death toll may climb as many of those treated in hospitals were in a serious condition.

The army was deployed outside the park where members of the minority community clashed with the police. Attacks targeting the religious minorities often take place in Pakistan, and there have been allegations that the government does little to protect the minorities.

"We were just here to have a nice evening and enjoy the weather ... May God shower his wrath upon these attackers. What kind of people target little children in a park?" said a mother whose two-year-old daughter was battling for life at the hospital, according to Reuters.

Pope Francis condemned the attack, saying it cast a shadow of anguish on Easter celebrations.

"The horrible massacre of dozens of innocent people in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, casts a shadow of sadness and anguish on the feast of Easter," a Vatican statement said.