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ICC Note:

Christian leaders in Pakistan have called on their government to provide their community with better protection following a deadly suicide bombing that took place on Easter day. According to the terrorist group that carried out the attack, Christians were the main target of the explosion. Christians in Pakistan have been targeted several times by terrorist or extremist groups in Pakistan over the recent past. In March 2015, two churches were attacked by suicide bombers killing over 20 and wounding another 70. Many believe Christians are targeted by terrorists because they present a soft target. Many Christian leaders complain that local authorities do little to protect Christians and their places of worship due to their religious identity as non-Muslims. 

4/11/2016 Pakistan (Crossmap) – Christian leaders are demanding protection after the deadly suicide attack on Easter Sunday 2016 in Lahore, Pakistan.

An article by Aftab Alexander Mughal said that reports say at least 74 people, both Christians and Muslims were killed, including 29 children. Over 370 people were injured in the blast on March 27, at Gulshan Iqbal Park in Lahore.

Lahore is the capital of Punjab province and the second largest city of Pakistan. Christians make up only 5 percent of the 80 million population of the city.

At the time of the blast, about 3,000 people were visiting the park, where some Christian families were celebrating Easter, following prayer services. Mughal said some wounded people are still in hospitals and in critical condition.

It is estimated that around 32 Christians, mostly young children, from Nishtar Colony, Youhanabad, Bahar Colony, Khaliqnagar and Awan Market of Lahore have died in the Islamist suicide bombing strike.

On April 4, Pakistanis remembered the victims of the Lahore carnage. Churches throughout Pakistan organized special prayer services, while throughout the day Muslim families visited their love ones graves in Lahore.

Along with the Pakistani nation, the international community also condemned the devastated incident. Pope Francis called it a bloody and hideous attack and demanded protection for the country’s religious minorities, especially Christians, who were the main target.

Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, which has a close association with the Islamic State, claimed responsibility.

Later, the group released the picture of the suicide attacker, identified as Salahuddin Khurasani. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is based in the Mohmand agency of the tribal areas, led by Umar Khalid Khurasani.

In March last year, Mughal said, the same terrorist group attacked two churches in Lahore. Lahore is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s hometown.

The attackers’ main target was Pakistan’s poor Christian community. It was also a message to the government that these groups are still capable of striking wherever they want, despite a year long military operation against terrorists in the northern part of the country.

According to eyewitnesses, there were no proper security arrangements in and around the playground, which made it easy for the suicide bomber to enter the park without much difficulty and blow himself up in the crowded area.

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