A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded park in Pakistan on Easter Sunday, killing at least 72 people and wounding more than 300 others, according to reports.
A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and said it had deliberately targeted Christians, NBC News reports.
The devastating attack, which killed at least 36 children, took place at a park in Lahore, a city in eastern Pakistan.
“Mostly women and children are killed and injured in the blast,” Lahore police chief Haider Ashraf said, reports NBC, adding that the park was busier than usual as local Christians were there to enjoy Easter Sunday. “He chose a soft target and that’s why [he] went towards women and children in the park.”
Footage of the bomb site showed scenes of carnage, with women and children crying and screaming and rescue officials trying to help the injured. Authorities said they had recovered the body of the bomber – a man in his mid- to late 20s who set off more than 30 pounds of explosives.
Local, national and international authorities 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,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, according to CNN.
Many of Lahore’s Christians had gathered in the park to celebrate Easter by socializing and pushing their children on swings. Christians make up just 2 percent of Pakistan’s population, and there is tension between them and a hardline Muslim core that wants to see a strict interpretation of Islamic law enacted in Pakistan, CNN reported.
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“I wish I hadn’t brought my daughter to the park today,” one witness, Kamran Bhatti, 34, told The New York Times. “This is the only recreation we can afford for her. What is her fault?”
He added: “While we were running out of the park, my daughter slipped and rolled over. She’s injured, but I thank my God that we are not crying for a lost child.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a native of Lahore, condemned the attack and met with law enforcement and intelligence authorities Monday, CNN said.
“Our goal is not only to eliminate terror infrastructure but also the extremist mindset, which is a threat to our way of life,” he said.