Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned Sunday’s suicide blast outside a children’s park in the north-eastern Pakistani city of Lahore that left over 72 dead and around 300 seriously injured.

The Pakistani media reported that a suicide bomber triggered the powerful blast inside the crowded park, where Christians had congregated to celebrate Easter Sunday. A large number of people were present at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park of Allama Iqbal Town when the bomber, believed to be in his 20s, blew himself up in the evening.

Later, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, with senior spokesperson of the outfit Ehsanullah Ehsan saying in a statement: “We want to send a message to PM Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants, but he won’t be able to stop us. Our bombers will continue these attacks.”

Soon after Jamaat-ul-Ahrar issued the statement, the Indian PM tweeted: “Heard about the blast in Lahore. I strongly condemn it. My condolences to families of the deceased and prayers with the injured.” The premier also expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, saying that coward terrorists had targeted females and kids and it was highly condemnable and regrettable.

Prime Minister Modi also phoned his Pakistani counterpart Sharif to convey deep grief and sorrow over the Lahore blast that took place just days after the attacks in Brussels. He told the Pak premier that “people of India stand with their Pakistani brethren in this hour of grief”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif thanked the Indian PM for his gesture, terming terrorism as the enemy of humanity. He also directed the concerned authorities in Lahore to ensure special medical care to the injured. Sharif, who was scheduled to leave for Britain on Monday, cancelled his trip after the blast at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.

On Monday, Deputy Inspector General of Lahore Police Dr Haider Asharaf informed the press that the police have identified the bomber and arrested five family members of the suspect from south Punjab. They were shifted to an undisclosed location later for interrogation, he said. According to Dr Ashraf, the police also arrested 20 “suspected people” in a late night operation, as these people were found without their identity cards.

Pakistan further announced three-day mourning, apart from closing all public parks in Lahore for an indefinite period. Even all markets and business centres in Lahore remained closed on Monday. Lahore is the capital of Prime Minister Sharif’s political heartland of Punjab.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]