More than 70 people were killed and more than 300 hundred injured in a suicide bombing in a crowded park in Lahore, Pakistan on Easter Sunday. Most of those killed were women and children. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby condemned in the strongest terms the appalling terrorist attack in the eastern province of Punjab.
Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack, which they say was directed at Pakistani Christians, though in the aftermath it has become clear more Muslims than Christians lost their lives in the attack.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to eradicate extremist ideologies from Pakistan after the Easter Sunday bombing. "Our goal is not only to eliminate terror infrastructure but also the extremist mindset which is a threat to our way of life," Sharif said in a statement. "We must take this war to the doors of terrorist outfits before they are able to hit our innocent country men."
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for several big attacks in the past two years. It has previously carried out at least two major attacks in Lahore: one in 2015 that targeted two Christian churches and another at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan in late 2014.
Of Pakistan’s 190 million people, approximately 1.5 percent of the total population is Christian according to the latest census. But it is a community that has been targeted by extremist groups before. For example, in 2013, a suicide bombing at a church in Peshawar left more than 100 people dead, and a series of attacks at churches in Lahore left 14 dead.
“Attacks like these only deepen our shared resolve to defeat terrorism around the world,” said Spokesperson Kirby, “and we will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region to combat the threat of terrorism.”