Police in the Pakistani city of Lahore have arrested 17 people in a series of raids that started late Wednesday evening, police said.
Superintendent Mohammad Iqbal said the suspects are connected to the Easter bombing that targeted a park, killing at least 74 people and injuring 362 others. At least 24 children died, Punjab province police said.
Young lives lost in Lahore blast
The raids are ongoing and more arrests are expected, Iqbal said. Police and local intelligence agencies are working together in the raids.
A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat ul Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had targeted Christians.
Sunday’s attack came at a poignant time for Pakistan’s Christians, some of whom were in the city’s Gulshan Iqbal Park to celebrate Easter on Sunday evening.
The religious group makes up 2% of the population, and tensions are high between them and a hard-line Muslim core that wants to see a strict interpretation of Islamic law take precedence in Pakistan’s legal system.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled a planned visit to the United States after the violence, telling his nation Monday in a televised address that his government would not allow terrorists to “play with Pakistani lives.”
“We are keeping count of every drop of the blood of our martyrs,” he said. “We will not rest until the cost of this blood is avenged.”
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In March of last year, suicide bombers attacked a Christian community, also in Lahore, setting off two blasts that killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens more, officials said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for those attacks.
The explosions, which struck the Nishtar Colony area in the city of Lahore, wounded at least 78 people, a Lahore General Hospital official said at the time.
In 2013, suicide bombers struck a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 people.