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Paramilitary crackdown will be launched after Easter bombing killed 72

Taliban faction Jamaat ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attacks. "The target were Christians", they said. Al least 72 have died, 29 children.

SOURCES Reuters, BBC AUTHOR Evangelical Focus LAHORE 28 MARCH 2016 17:20 h GMT+1
Pakistani Christian women mourn the death of a loved one killed in the Lahore bombing. /AP

After the Easter Day bombing which killed more than 70 people in the provincial capital Lahore, Pakistan will launch a paramilitary crackdown on Islamist militants in Punjab, country's richest and most populous province, Reuters informed.

The move, which has not yet been formally announced, represents the civilian government once again granting special powers to the military in order to fight Islamist militants.



Pakistan's PM has urged better coordination between security agencies against terror, a day after a suicide bomb killed more than 70 in Lahore.

“I want more proactive coordination between law enforcement and intelligence agencies”, Nawaz Sharif affirmed at a meeting of security officials

A number of arrests were made and weapons seized in five raids by security forces, the army said. Mr Sharif visited some of the injured in hospital. At the later security meeting, he said defeating terrorism was imperative.

"Our resolve as a nation and as a government is getting stronger and the coward enemy is trying for soft targets", he added.



Sunday's suicide bombing was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban's Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction, which once declared loyalty to Islamic State. The group said it was targeting Christians.

This is Jamaat-ur-Ahrar's fifth bombing since December, and it reflects the movement's attempts to raise its profile among Pakistan's increasingly fractured Islamist militants.


A Pakistani police commando stands guard at a Lahore park following the suicide bombing / AFP/Getty Images

It was Pakistan's deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military-run academy in the city of Peshawar that prompted a government crackdown on Islamist militancy.

The area was more crowded than usual, as members of Lahore's minority Christian community had gathered to celebrate Easter at a funfair in the park.



Meanwhile, military spokesman Gen. Asim Bajwa confirmed intelligence agencies, the army and Rangers had already carried out raids in Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad

A "number of suspect terrorists and facilitators" were arrested and a "huge cache of arms and ammunition" seized, he added.



Jamaat-ur-Ahrar is an increasingly effective faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which has carried out several attacks in the north-western Peshawar valley region during the last few months.

"The target were Christians", a faction spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. "We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore."

Rescue services spokeswoman Deeba Shahnaz confirmed that at least 29 children, seven women and 34 men were killed and about 340 were wounded, with 25 in serious condition.They were killed when a suicide bomber struck in a busy park in the eastern city of Lahore.

But many believe there may be a wider context to the latest attack, because March 27 was the deadline set by an alliance of more than 30 religious groups for the provincial government of Punjab to withdraw a new women's rights law they oppose.


Karachi residents light candles to pay tribute to the victims / AFP/Getty Images



The government of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, declared a state of emergency in the city and three days of mourning. Other regions declared one day.

Many criticised the "senseless violence", making #PrayForLahore one of the top trending topics on Monday.

Indians on Twitter expressed solidarity with Pakistan using the hastag #IndiawithPakistan, and urged fellow citizens "to stand with Pakistan in this hour of grief."



Pakistan is a majority-Muslim state but there are around 3,8 million Christians in the country.

The country’s infamous blasphemy laws, under which blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad is punishable by death or life imprisonment, is often used to settle personal scores, particularly against religious minorities.

According to Open Doors, incidents of “overt violence can overshadow the everyday abuse of Christian girls – who are frequently abducted, raped, forced to marry and convert – and the ongoing abuse of the blasphemy laws.

“The country’s 3.8 million Christians feel increasingly under threat in their daily lives. The persecution of religious minorities is in effect enabled rather than deterred by the state.”

Pakistan is on number 6 in the 2016 World Watch List, a report by Open Doors which analyses persecution of Christians.




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