Govt detains more than 5,000 over Lahore blast
Pakistani authorities have detained more than 5,000 suspects in the two days since a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people in a park in the city of Lahore. Authorities have carried out at least 160 raids.
The Pakistani government has promised to crack down on militants and their backers after a suicide bomber targeted Christians celebrating Easter in Lahore on the weekend.
A Taliban splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which also supports the self-proclaimed Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Army spokesman General Asim Saleem Bajwa says, while the attack happened in Punjab province, the military will launch raids on suspected militant hideouts throughout the country.
"Sleeper cells of terrorists exist in various parts of the country, and such operations against militants, their financiers and abetters will be carried out across Pakistan, irrespective of which part of the country it is."
Police, counter-terrorism and intelligence agents have carried out at least 160 raids.
A state minister for Punjab province, Rana Sanaullah, says more than 5,000 suspects have been arrested over the past two days, although most have since been released.
"During these raids, 5,221 suspects were rounded up. 5,005 of them were released after verifi- cation of their particulars. 216 suspects are in custody, pending further investigation. After further investigation, we will know more about them. If someone is innocent, they are innocent. If someone is found to be guilty, they will be charged."
The raids come as Jamaat-ulAhrar issues a new threat, warning Pakistan's media they could be the next target.
A spokesman for the group has tweeted, "Everyone will get their turn in this war, especially the slave Pakistani media. We are just waiting for the appropriate time."
In a joint press conference with Pakistan's representative to the United Nations, United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has denounced the attack.
She has told Pakistanis that people must come together to prevent the further spread of terrorism across the globe.
"We want you to know that you are in our thoughts and in our prayers, that Pakistan, a strategic ally, is in our thoughts and in our prayers. And, together, we will not be cowed, we will not be turned aside from our goal of a freer and a safer world. We will persevere, we will carry on, and we will prevail."
The Pakistan representative, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, says she is confident the perpetrators will be caught.
"My country is in mourning, but we are united in this grief that we all share. But we are also united in our determination to prevail over the dark forces of terrorism. They will never defeat us."