The death toll for the Easter-Day massacre in central Pakistan has risen to 72 victims, mostly women and children, along with at least 320 injured.
Breitbart News reported that a suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday evening in an attack on Christians in a large park in Lahore, where hundreds of families had gathered to celebrate the feast of Easter. Among the victims are more than 30 small children, who at the time of the blast were playing sports and outdoor games in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.
The suicide bomber has been identified as 28-year-old Yousuf Farid, a resident of Muzzafargarh district. The radical Islamist group Jamat ul Ahrar, a branch of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the slaughter.
On Monday morning, an official of the Government of Punjab Province said that rescue work is still in full swing, and includes the deployment of a number of military installments.
Authorities have called for three days of mourning, while hunting down the perpetrators of the massacre. As of Monday morning, Pakistani police have arrested 15 people including three brothers of the young suicide bomber who blew himself up among the families.
In Vatican City, Pope Francis issued a condemnation of the carnage as well as promising prayers for the victims and their families. “The horrible massacre of dozens of innocent people in Lahore Park casts a pall of sadness and anguish on the Easter holiday. Once again, the cowardly, murderous hatred rages against the most defenseless,” said the Pope’s message, as communicated by the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
The Pope also declared his closeness to the members of Pakistan’s Christian minority who “once again have been struck by fanatical violence.”
The survivors said they saw bodies dismembered by the blast sprawled in pools of blood. Police confirmed the use of metal balls which sprayed in every direction to increase the lethal effect of the bomb.
The Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, a human rights activist and the youngest ever to win the prize, decried the massacre on Twitter.
The United States also condemned the attack, calling it a “cowardly act” and promising unyielding efforts “to root out the scourge of terrorism.”
On March 15 of last year, two Taliban suicide bombers likewise blew themselves up in Pakistan at the entrance to two Christian churches in Lahore, causing 17 deaths and wounding 80 more.