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Suicide Bomber Targets Families Celebrating Easter at Lahore Park

Pakistani rescue workers remove bodies from the site of a bomb blast in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, on March, 27, 2016. (AP Photo/K.M. Chuadary)

Dozens were killed in a brutal terrorist blast near children’s playground swings in Lahore, Pakistan, on Easter Sunday.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that at least 65 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the suicide attack at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, where a large number of families were gathered on the holiday evening.

The attack was claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group from the original Pakistani Taliban.

On Saturday, the Afghan Taliban issued a statement complaining that only Islamic holidays can be celebrated in Islamic countries, specifically grousing about Nowruz (Persian New Year) celebrations in Kabul the past week.

The Pakistani Taliban group said it targeted the family park to kill members of the country’s Christian community for celebrating Easter and to send a message to the country’s prime minister that “we will reach you.”

The bomb packed with ball bearings was detonated just a few feet from the swing sets.

The Pakistan Army issued an urgent call for blood donors in the area.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement issued by the White House that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan.”

“This cowardly act in what has long been a scenic and placid park has killed dozens of innocent civilians and left scores injured. We send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those killed, just as our thoughts and prayers are with the many injured in the explosion,” Price said.

“The United States stands with the people and Government of Pakistan at this difficult hour. We will continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region, as together we will be unyielding in our efforts to root out the scourge of terrorism.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to express condolences and stress the need for the countries to fight terrorism.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued a statement condemning the “cowardly mass execution” as “an outrage.”

Coming on the heels of the terrorist attacks in Belgium, it is further confirmation that radical terrorists are at war with our culture, our values and our way of life.

“This type of terrorism is an existential threat to all who share our values. It must be defeated,” Kasich said. “The need for a strong America is greater than ever, and we must rise to the challenge. When America retreats or shows weakness, the entire world shudders. We must redouble our efforts with Pakistan to identify and eliminate terrorists groups, which Pakistan now recognizes pose a dire threat to its own national security as well.”

“Let us remember the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers as we gather strength and resolve to defeat all who threaten our values.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted, “We are grieving today for the families affected by the deplorable attack in Lahore. No one should ever fear taking their children to a park.”

The first family went to Alfred Street Baptist Church this morning. A White House official said on background today that President Obama late phoned the parents of Justin and Stephanie Shults, who were killed in the Brussels attack, “to express his deepest condolences and those of the nation.”

“The President affirmed that Justin and Stephanie epitomized all that was good about America, and he told their parents that their tragic deaths have touched the hearts of all of us. The President further assured them that the thoughts, prayers, strength, and resolve of the Nation are with them at this difficult time.”