In Brief

Pakistan bombing death toll reaches 72

Taliban splinter group claims responsibility for suicide bombing targeting Christians in Lahore

The death toll from the suicide bombing in Lahore on Easter Sunday has risen to 72 overnight. Hundreds more were injured in one of Pakistan's single most deadly terrorist attacks.

The explosion, which targeted Pakistani Christians, tore through the city's busiest public park, merely feet away from a children's playground. A senior police official said most of the casualties were women and children.

Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an affiliate of the Taliban.

A spokesman for the group said the blast had deliberately targeted Christians, but Haider Ashraf, the city's chief of police, said the majority of the dead were Muslims.

The Pakistani army say they have arrested nearly 50 Taliban militants linked to the attack.

Since Pakistan began fighting the Taliban and associated groups in the tribal areas close to the Afghan border in 2014, the frequency of terrorist attacks in the country has dropped significantly. According to The Times, the total death toll from terrorist activity was lower in 2015 than in any year since 2007, when the Pakistani Taliban was formed.

The bombing is the "bloodiest and boldest" attempt yet by a new Islamist extremist faction to "establish itself as the most aggressive and violent of the many such groups active in Pakistan", says The Guardian.

However, it is not just the scale of Sunday's attack that has sent shock waves through Pakistan. Most terrorist activity has been limited to the west of the country: the Punjab and its capital, Lahore, had been considered relatively safe.

Punjab is Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous state and also the political heartland of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. These factors, coupled with the high proportion of Pakistani Christians in the city, made Lahore an attractive target for militants looking to send a message to the country's establishment.

The attack has also drawn attention to the escalating violence perpetrated against the minority Christian community. Over the past five years, accusations of blasphemy and a crackdown on minorities have led to increased incidences of mob violence against Christians, says the BBC.

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