Taliban militants who killed more than 70 people, many of them children, in a brutal Easter weekend bombing mocked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday with a taunting tweet that declared war had “reached his doorstep”.
The mocking words came as parks were reopened with tight security in an atmosphere of fear and tension across Lahore Tuesday, though the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park where the carnage took place remained close.
Hundreds were injured when explosives packed with ball bearings ripped through crowds near a children’s play area in the park, where families had gathered to enjoy a warm Sunday evening.
On Tuesday the death toll climbed to 73 after a 16-year-old boy succumbed to his injuries, doctors said.
“The boy had lost his father and sister in the blast while his mother is being treated for critical injuries,” Dr Tariq Mohsin told AFP.
Sharif vowed in a televised address Monday to avenge the attack in the provincial capital, a stronghold for his ruling Pakistan Muslim League.
“Terrorists cannot dent our resolve. Our struggle will continue until the complete elimination of the menace of terrorism,” he said.
But on Tuesday Ehansullah Ehsan, spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban that carried out the attack, derided the prime minister on Twitter.
“After the Lahore attack, Nawaz Sharif repeated old words to give himself false assurances,” he wrote.
“Nawaz Sharif should know that war has reached his doorstep, and God willing the mujahideen will be the winners in this war.”
Kashir Nawab, a 32-year-old Christian from the Youhanabad neighbourhood of Lahore, said a “pall of gloom” hung over the area as mourners visited the homes of those lost in the blast.
Nawab said he was working to help arrange funeral services.
“Everybody is frightened and the Christians particularly feel unprotected,” he said.
The attack was the worst so far in 2016 for a country grimly accustomed to atrocities, and will further fray inter-religious ties in the Muslim-majority nation.
In response to the atrocity, the country’s powerful army announced it had carried out raids in Lahore as well as in Faisalabad and Multan, two other major cities in Punjab province. More were planned, it said.
Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people and have long faced discrimination.
Twin suicide attacks against churches in Lahore killed 17 people in March last year, sparking two days of rioting by thousands of Christians.
A military operation targeting insurgents was stepped up in 2015 and saw the death toll from militant attacks fall to its lowest since the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were formed in 2007.
But analysts have warned the group is still able to carry out major attacks.