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Malala's call for unity in face of terror after suicide bomb kills 70 in Pakistan

By Jemma Crew and Joe Churcher

Malala Yousafzai has condemned the "senseless killing" in her birth country Pakistan after a terrorist bombing left at least 70 dead on Easter Sunday.

The country entered a three-day mourning period yesterday following the attack in a park in Lahore, believed to be carried out by a suicide bomber.

The 18-year-old Nobel Prize winner, who lives in Birmingham, said: "I am devastated by the senseless killing of innocent people in Lahore.

"My heart goes out to the victims and their families and friends. I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."

She called for Pakistan and the world to stand together, adding: "Every life is precious and must be respected and protected."

More than 300 were injured in the attack, many seriously, after a device was detonated near children's rides while families celebrated Easter in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

A breakaway Pakistani faction of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the carnage and said it had deliberately targeted the Christian community. However, most of those killed were Muslims - with 14 having been identified as Christians, according to Lahore Police Superintendent Mohammed Iqbal.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who used his Easter message to urge Britons of all faiths to stand up for Christian values, said he was shocked by the attack and promised British help.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims. We will do what we can to help," the PM posted on his Twitter feed.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "My thoughts are with the victims and the family of the victims of the horrific attack in Lahore. Solidarity with the emergency services there."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said British nationals were advised to avoid the area and monitor travel advice updates and local media.

In the Pakistan capital Islamabad extremists protested for a second day outside Parliament and other key buildings in the city centre.

The demonstrators set cars on fire, demanding that authorities impose Islamic law or Sharia.

In Lahore dozens of families were bidding final farewell to their slain kin during funeral ceremonies.

Shama Pervez, widowed mother of 11-year-old Sahil Pervez who died in the blast, was inconsolable during funeral prayers. Her son had pleaded with her to go to the park rather than stay home on Sunday, and she said she finally gave in.

Ten members of Qasim Ali's family were killed in the park, all Muslims. His 10-year-old nephew Fahad Ali lay in a bed in his home, his battered body almost completely damaged. He had lost his parents and a sister, another two sisters were badly injured.

Forensic experts sifted through the debris in the park. The suicide bomb had been a crude device loaded with ball bearings, designed to rip through the bodies of its victims to cause maximum damage, said counter-terrorism official Rana Tufail. He identified the suicide bomber as Mohammed Yusuf, saying he was known as a militant recruiter.

After a meeting with his security officials yesterday Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the perpetrators of the Lahore attack "cowards" and vowed to defeat the "extremist mindset". He also cancelled a planned trip to the UK.

The military reported raids in eastern Punjab province, where several deadly militant organisations are based, and said dozens were arrested as Pakistan started observing a three-day mourning period declared after the attack.

Pope Francis denounced what he called the vile and abominable bombing.

He called on authorities in Pakistan to "make every effort to restore security and serenity" to Pakistanis, particularly religious minorities, in the largely Muslim Asian nation.

Belfast Telegraph


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