An explosion ripped through a crowded Pakistan park where Christians were celebrating Easter on Sunday, killing at least 60 people, officials told the Associated Press.
A Taliban faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack and said Christians were the target of the blast, Reuters reported. The mostly-Muslim country has a small Christian community, accounting for less than two percent of Pakistan’s total population.
About 300 people were injured when the bomb detonated in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in the eastern city of Lahore.
A suicide bomber is suspected of being responsible for the blast, though authorities continue to investigate. Ball bearings, which may have been shrapnel from the bomb, were found at the scene, according to AFP.
The explosion reportedly occurred just outside the exit gate and near rides for children.
“When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air,” Hasan Imran, 30, told Reuters.
A police superintendent said most of the dead were women and children, according to Reuters. Salman Rafiq, an adviser to the chief minister of Punjab province, said many of the wounded were in a critical condition.
“It was overcrowded because of Easter, there were a lot of Christians there,” Javed Ali, a 35-year-old who lives near the park, told AFP. “It was so crowded I told my family not to go.”
Zaeem Qadri said Sunday that the chief minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, has announced three days mourning and pledged to ensure that those involved in the attack are brought to trial.
The park was manned by police guards and private security guards, police chief Haider Ashraf said.
“We are in a warlike situation and there is always a general threat, but no specific threat alert was received for this place,” he said.
Footage broadcast on local television stations showed chaotic scenes in the park, with people running while carrying children and cradling the wounded in their laps.
A witness, not identified by name on Pakistan’s Geo TV station, said he was heading toward a ride with his wife and two children when he heard a huge bang and all four of them were thrown to the floor.
Public parks in the area were closed after the attack, and shopping areas shut down, too.
The army was called in to assist with crowd control, Reuters reported.
The U.S. condemned the attacks in a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price on Sunday.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan,” the statement said. “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.
“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.”
Lahore is the capital of Pakistan’s biggest province, Punjab.
Sunday’s attack comes less than a week after several ISIS terrorists bombed an airport and subway station in Brussels, killing 31 and injuring 270.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.