Who Attacked The Pakistan Park In Lahore? One Extremist Group Has Already Claimed Responsibility
A devastating terrorist attack claimed the lives of at least 50 people while hundreds more were injured on Sunday. An explosion thought to be from a suicide bomber occurred at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, around 6:30 p.m. where families were reportedly celebrating the Easter holiday. And already, an extremist group has claimed responsibility for the incident. A spokesperson from alleged Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the Pakistan park attack in a statement.
Ehsanullah Ehsan reportedly made the claim during a phone interview on Sunday. According to The Washington Post, Ehsan said:
It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter. It's our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia is imposed in the country.
Ehsan made it abundantly clear that religious prejudice was the rationale behind the attack. He reportedly also indicated that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar would yet again be targeting the Pakistan province of Punjab. Lahore is the capital city of the province, which is said to be the wealthiest and largest in the country.
The group additionally stated that the attack was meant to assert its dominance in the country, while also appearing to bolster the claim that Sunday's explosion was due to a suicide bomber. "We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore," Ehsan reportedly stated. "He can do what he wants but he won't be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks."
Although the group has reportedly spoken positively about ISIS, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is not associated with them and instead has rejoined Tehrik-i-Taliban, otherwise known as the Pakistani Taliban, according to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The group initially emerged from the Taliban in Pakistan and splintered off in 2014, Reuters reported, only to reclaim affiliation with them one year later. They reportedly operate somewhat independently from the Taliban but are still considered a faction of the extremist group.
As of this writing, the Lahore park attack is currently under investigation and the region is observing a three-day mourning period. The Pakistan Army was reportedly being used for crowd control at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park following the incident. Security measures have been tightened and public parks in Punjab have reportedly been ordered closed as have areas of commerce. In terms of providing relief efforts, free rides are reportedly being offered by the government to better facilitate blood donations to help those affected by the attack.