A popular public park became the scene of devastating violence in Pakistan's second largest city Sunday evening. An explosion in Lahore, Pakistan, killed more than 60 people and left hundreds injured, including dozens of women and children, local authorities said. The blast, reportedly the result of a suicide bomber, occurred in the parking lot near the main entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in western Lahore, striking just a few feet from a children's play area.
Witnesses described scenes of gruesome chaos as frantic parents and children scrambled to reconnect with each other in the aftermath of the blast. No immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion has been issued, but local authorities have said they believe the perpetrators were looking to target families out celebrating the Easter holiday. "It was a soft target. Innocent women and children and visitors from other cities have been targeted," The New York Times reports Haider Ashraf, a senior police official in Lahore, said. "Apparently, it seems like a suicide attack."
Shortly after the blast, Facebook frightened a handful of users when a glitch caused the social media network's Safety Check tool to send messages to people located around the world with no apparent connections to Lahore notifying them of "the explosion" and inquiring about their status.
"Are you OK? It looks like you're in the area affected by The Explosion in Gulshan-I-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Pakistan," confused Facebook users reported a message sent by the network's Safety Check tool read. "Let friends know that you're safe." A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed, "We apologize to anyone who mistakenly received a notification outside of Pakistan and are working to resolve the issue."
A Taliban insurgency and sectarian conflict have continued to trouble the country, which has been plagued by increasing violence in recent months. In early March, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban known as the Jamaat-ur-Ahrar killed two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Consulate in a roadside bomb while traveling to an area near the Afghan border.
More recently, protesters angry with the government's execution of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri clashed with police in Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad on Sunday. Qadri was hanged in late February for the assassination of secular politician and Punjab Province governor Salmaan Taseer in January 2011. In his confession, Qadri said he killed Taseer because the politician had begun calling for change to Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which Taseer felt unfairly targeted the country's religious minorities, and had defended a Christian woman imprisoned on blasphemy charges.
In condemning the attack, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain declared three days of mourning for the victims of Sunday's Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park explosion. Messages of shock, sorrow, sympathy, and anger poured in for Lahore from around the world via Twitter as people struggled to understand why the blast appeared to target children. Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said she was "devastated by the senseless killing of innocent people today in Lahore" and urged international unity in the face of such violence. "Every life is precious and must be respected and protected," she said.