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Children massacred in Pakistan by suicide bomber.

March 31, 2016 · 

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LAHORE’S Catholic  Archbishop Sebastian ShawOFM Cap. )has described seeing wounded and dead children as young as four or five as he seeks to offer comfort and hope following Easter Sunday’s bomb blast.  “I saw so many children wounded or killed” he said speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need just after returning from a hospital in the Punjabi capital, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw described going from bed to bed and hearing personal accounts of the atrocity in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park where 72 people were killed and as many as 340 were wounded.

Pakistan Taliban group Jaamat-ul-Ahrar, which has reportedly declared ties with Daesh (ISIS), took responsibility for the attack in which a suicide bomber detonated a bomb close to a children’s playground.    With 29 children counted among the dead, Archbishop Shaw said: “I visited every bedside and every victim, of whatever faith. It was truly difficult because I saw so many children, [aged] only four or five, both Christians and Muslims, who had been wounded or killed by this terrible attack.”

According to media in Lahore, many youngsters were playing on the swings and other children’s rides in the park when the bomb went off at about 6.35pm on Sunday. The bodies of 10 Christians have been identified so far – people who lived in the Lahore districts of Yohannabad, Bahar Colony and Khaliq Nagar.

A Jaamat-ul-Ahrar spokesman has said: “The target was Christians”, and Archbishop Shaw confirmed that many of his faithful were in the park enjoying Easter festivities but added that many of the dead and injured were Muslims and other non-Christians.

Archbishop Shaw, a Franciscan, said: “To my own faithful I said that they must not give up hope because, even though we were going through a period of grave difficulties, we have to learn to rise up again, just as Christ was able to raise himself again, despite carrying the Cross.” The archbishop said that security had been heightened around churches in Lahore, especially in the Yohannabad district, where a year ago the same extremist group carried out an attack on St John’s Church and Christ Church, blasts that took place within minutes of each other during Sunday morning services.

But he said Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park was not thought to be a potential target. Archbishop Shaw continued: “After the attacks last year on two Christian churches in Yohannabad, we were fearful that there might be another attack, and for this reason the government had provided all the necessary security measures to protect the churches – but no-one had thought about the park.”

Also speaking to Aid to the Church in Need by telephone from Lahore, Peter Jacob, former director of Pakistan Justice and Peace Commission, said he believed the terrorists had sought to cause maximum death and destruction by targeting the park when it was at its busiest, with 3,000 people there at the time of the blast. He said that the government and the security services had increased efforts to confront terrorism.

Mr Jacob said it was possible the terrorists had picked the park for the blast as it was close to the family home of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and that they wanted to send a message of resilience and a refusal to back down. Mr Jacob said: “[Lahore] is his city, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif lives here, hence we can’t exclude the possibility that the attackers wanted in some way to send a warning to the authorities.”

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