Christians were the target of Easter Sunday’s devastating terror attack at a Pakistani park, said the Taliban-affiliated terror group which claimed credit for the carnage. At least 70 Pakistani Christians were killed in the city of Lahore when explosives originating from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, detonated amidst hundreds of families gathered to celebrate the holiday.
The explosion is believed to be the work of a suicide bomber who entered the main gate to the park in the early evening. It took place only a short distance from a playground, killing 29 children and dozens of adults.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 after splitting from the Taliban and then switched loyalties again in 2015, said it had perpetrated the attack in order to send a message to Pakistan’s leaders: Islamic terrorism has arrived.
“The target was Christians,” said faction spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, Reuters reported. “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.”
Lahore, the capital city of Pakistan’s richest province, Punjab, represents the power base of Sharif’s government and has a significant Christian population. The attack on the city’s Christians, which came on one of the most significant religious holidays of the year, was the deadliest assault on Pakistani Christians since the 2013 bombing of a Peshawar church which killed over 80 people.
In addition to the fatalities, which are still adding up, over 300 people were wounded. The nation quickly announced three days of mourning for the victims.
Number of suspect terrorists and facilitators arrested and huge cache of arms and ammunition recovered-3
— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) March 28, 2016
While Pakistan’s Christians comprise only 1.6 percent of the population, they are the second-largest minority group after Hindus in Pakistan, which is about 95 percent Muslim.
Attacks on Christian villages, hospitals and churches have increased in recent years as Islamic fanaticism in the region ramps up and Muslims target Christians, whom they see as infidels.
Lahore in particular has been a target. In 2013, Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in the city and burned over 100 houses after a Christian allegedly made “blasphemous” remarks.
Islamic terrorism has become an increasingly serious threat to Christians worldwide. The terror group Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamic organization active in Africa, is believed to have killed between 9,000 and 11,500 Christians since 2000.
In the Middle East, ISIS is known to massacre, kidnap and enslave Christians unlucky enough to be captured within the caliphate’s territory in Syria and Iraq, as it sees Christians as idol worshipers. In Israel, Christians enjoy religious freedom, but no one is free from the militant Islamism and terror which has killed over 30 Israelis and injured hundreds more in past several months.