Hundreds arrested in Pakistan following deadly bombing


Pakistan has arrested hundreds of suspects for alleged links with Islamist extremists after a Taliban bomber killed 72 people at the weekend, officials said on Tuesday.

The crackdown across several cities in the central province of Punjab started immediately after Sunday's bombing at a public park in the eastern city of Lahore, security officials said.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, said it carried out the attack to target Christians celebrating the festival of Easter and vowed more bombings. More than 30 children were among the dead and around 350 people wounded in the deadliest attack to hit Pakistan in a year, Lahore's chief administrator Mohamed Usman said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered law enforcement agencies to speed up the offensive against the Islamist militants, who are linked with the al-Qaida terrorist network. "I want more proactive coordination between law enforcement and intelligence agencies," he said on Monday. "The terrorists have assassinated our children – sons and daughters – and God willing, we will wipe them out from this country."

At least 350 suspects were arrested by the intelligence agencies and police since the attack, security officials said, without giving details how many of them were linked with the Sunday's bombing.

In an emotional televised address to the nation overnight, Sharif vowed to chase "cowardly" terrorists until all are eliminated. Relatives prepared to bury the victims on Tuesday as 68 of the 72 bodies were handed over to families after post-mortems, police official Asghar Ali told journalists. Four of the dead remained unidentified. Life was slowly returning to normal in Lahore after a day of mourning. Schools and shops were open and road traffic had resumed.    (dpa)

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