Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed Sunday's Lahore suicide bombing that killed nearly 70 people, and said the attack was a message to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose home province came under the latest terror attack to hit the country. The terror group also claimed the attack was targeted at Christians who were marking Easter Sunday.
Scores of people, including women and children, were killed when a suicide bomb ripped through the Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, while nearly 300 people were injured, with Pakistani media reporting many were in critical condition. Lahore is the political homeground of Sharif's ruling Pakistani Muslim League party.
"We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore," Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said, according to Reuters. The group had earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, but later returned to the Taliban.
Sharif has reportedly called off his UK trip, for which he was scheduled to leave Monday, according to the Guardian. Pakistan's Army Chief Raheel Sharif chaired an emergency meeting Sunday following the blast.
Asim Bajwa, spokesman for the Pakistani armed forces, vowed to bring the Lahore attackers to justice and said intelligence agencies had commenced operations, through his Twitter account.
Locals were reported by Pakistani media describing nightmarish scenes at the site of the blast.
"There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances," a resident told the Express Tribune.
Modi, Malala condemn attacks
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Sharif over the phone Sunday, condemning the Lahore blast, Indian external affairs ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Twitter.
"During the conversation, PM Modi underlined the need for uncompromising efforts to fight against terrorism," Swarup said.
Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai said she was "devastated" by the Lahore blast, in a statement released by the Malala Fund on Twitter.
The United States also issued a statement through a white House official on Twitter, and said it will work with Pakistan to "root out the scourge of terrorism."