A suicide bomber linked to the Taliban has killed at least 65 people and wounded more than 200 others outside a park in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore.

The explosion took place in the parking area of Gulshan Iqbal Park, just a few feet away from some children’s swings.

The area was crowded at the time because Christians were gathering to celebrate the Easter holiday.

The Taliban¬†faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility, saying it was targeting Pakistan’s Christian minority.

“The target were Christians,” said a spokesman for the group, Ehsanullah Ehsan.

“We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.


Police say many of the wounded are women and children

“He can do what he wants but he won’t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.”

Many families were leaving the park when the blast occurred.

Muhammad Usman, an administration official in Lahore, said the death toll had reached 65 people.

“The rescue operation is continuing,” he said, adding that more than 50 children were among the injured.

Eyewitnesses said they saw body parts strewn across the parking lot in the wake of the attack.

Television footage shows children and women crying as rescue officials, police and bystanders carry the injured to ambulances.

Javed Ali, a 35-year-old resident who lives opposite park, said the force of the blast shattered his home’s windows.

“Everything was shaking – there were cries and dust everywhere,” he said.

“After 10 minutes I went outside. There was human flesh on the walls of our house. People were crying, I could hear ambulances.”

He added: “It was overcrowded because of Easter – there were a lot of Christians there. It was so crowded I told my family not to go.”

The death toll is expected to rise as many of those injured are in a critical condition.

Superintendent Mustansar Feroz said most of the dead are women and children.

Lahore is the capital of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political heartland of Punjab, the biggest and wealthiest province in Pakistan.

The country is currently battling a Taliban insurgency, criminal gangs and sectarian violence.

In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated jihadist fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to attack both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sunday’s blast came as the army was also deployed on the streets of Islamabad after thousands of protesters clashed with police in chaotic scenes, throwing stones and setting a container on fire.

The demonstrators were supporters of Islamist assassin Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged on 29 February for killing a Punjab governor over his call for blasphemy reform.

The explosion also follows a bus bombing in Peshawar on 16 March in which 15 people died and another 40 were wounded.

The blast was set off by an improvised explosive device planted under a seat of the vehicle.

The bus was transporting government employees from nearby towns to provincial offices in Peshawar.