Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to hit back at the perpetrators of the Lahore carnage which claimed 72 lives on Easter Sunday. A Taliban splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the attack as Pakistani authorities are conducting raids in several places.
After chairing a high-level security meeting, Sharif said: "Terrorists have assassinated my kids, sons and daughters in this war and god willing we will wipe them out from this country."
Sharif has called off his proposed trip to the UK in order to handle the situation following the attack. He has ordered law enforcement agencies to step up their counter-terror measures against extremists.
"It is imperative for us to win the war on terror. Our resolve as a nation and as a government is getting stronger and coward enemy is trying to hit soft targets," said Sharif, as he chaired the security meeting in the chief minister's residence in Lahore. He visited the Jinnah Hospital where the blast victims have been admitted. At least 300 people were injured in the suicide bombing which rocked a public park in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and the second largest metropolitan area of Pakistan.
Sharif added: "Provinces should speed up intelligence-based operation against terrorists. We must take this war to the doors of terror outfits before they are able to hit our innocent countrymen."
There have been reports that the minority Christians were the target of the attack but these have been contradicted. At least 14 of those killed were identified as Christians, and more than 25 children are among the dead.
Christians, who make up nearly 1% of the 190-million-strong Pakistani population, and other minorities, who already experience social persecution, have been facing increasing hostility from Taliban and other extremist groups in recent years. Despite the government's various attempts to ease tensions, minorities continue to be targeted.
Security agencies have made several arrests. An army spokesperson General Asim Bajwa wrote on Twitter: "Number of suspected terrorists and facilitators arrested and huge cache of arms and ammunition recovered."
The Taliban faction which claimed the attack, promised to launch more such assaults. The group's spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan told the Guardian: "This is a message to the Pakistani prime minister that we have arrived in Punjab."