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File photo: Pakistani paramilitary soldiers stand guard at a cordoned road in Lahore. K.M. Chaudary/AP/Press Association Images

At least 65 dead after bomb hits Easter Sunday celebrations in park

The explosion took place in a park near children’s rides, according to Pakistani officials.

AT LEAST 65 people have been killed and dozens injured in Pakistan’s Lahore after an explosion ripped through a crowded park where Christians had gone to celebrate Easter Sunday, officials said.

Dozens of ambulances were seen racing to the park, situated near the centre of the city of around 8 million, with many women and children among the dead and wounded.

“The toll has risen to 65. The rescue operation is continuing,” Lahore’s top administration official, Muhammad Usman, told AFP.

The army had been called in, he said, and soldiers were at the scene helping with rescue operations and security.

Senior police official Haider Ashraf said the blast appeared to be a suicide attack, adding that ball bearings were found at the crowded park.

The explosion took place near the children’s rides, Ashraf said.

Falling violence

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency since 2004, with groups such as the Pakistani Taliban routinely carrying out attacks as part of their struggle to overthrow the government.

But Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital that lies on the country’s eastern border with India, has been relatively peaceful in recent years.

Nationwide, overall levels of militant violence have fallen since the army began a major offensive against Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in the country’s northwest border areas in 2014.

Last year saw the fewest number of civilian and security forces casualties since 2007, the year the umbrella Pakistani Taliban group was formed.

But militants have still been able to carry out major attacks.

At least 16 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded when a bomb blew up inside a bus in Peshawar, the main city of Pakistan’s insurgency-wracked northwest earlier this month.

Today’s blast in Lahore saw the highest number of casualties since a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 55 people at the main Pakistan-India border crossing at Wagah in 2014 in an attack claimed by the Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Taliban.

© AFP 2016 with additional reporting by AP

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