Pakistan mourns bombing victims

Pakistan was preparing Monday to bury the first victims of a bombing that targeted Christians at a park on the weekend, as the death toll in the attack climbed to 70.

Around 340 people were injured, said Deeba Shahnaz Akhtar, a spokeswoman for the rescue service. It was the deadliest attack in months in the province of Punjab.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest among a crowd at the public park in the eastern city of Lahore, local official Mohamed Usman said.

In Rome, Pope Francis called on those attending his Easter mass to pray for those killed and their loved ones, and on the Pakistani authorities to protect all of the country's minorities.

"I repeat once again, violence and murderous hatred only lead to pain and destruction," he said.

Iran also condemned the attack. "The terrorists will stop at nothing, and people are not safe anywhere," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaber Ansari said, calling for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, new agency IRNA reported.

In Lahore, markets were shut and traffic was thin on the roads across the province on Monday, as funerals for most victims were scheduled for later in the day.

At least 25 children were among the dead, local police chief Mohamed Iqbal said. Some 15 members of the Christian community died in the blast.

Police and rescue services put the confirmed number of dead at 70.

The provincial government announced a three-day period of mourning with the national flag flying at half-mast and schools closed in the city, provincial Education Minister Rana Mashood said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday visited injured people being treated at a hospital, his office said.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying members of the Christian community were their target.

Army chief Raheel Sharif said overnight the military would step up an offensive against the Islamist militants.

Last update: Mon, 28/03/2016 - 19:10
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