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Pakistan to launch a paramilitary crackdown in Punjab

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Pakistan to launch a paramilitary crackdown in Punjab

<ul> <li>At least 72 die in Lahore attack</li> <li>At least 29 were children</li> <li>340 wounded</li> <li>Pakistani Taliban faction admit bombing</li> <li>“Christians were the target”</li> </ul> <h3><strong>The news</strong></h3> <p>Pakistan is to crackdown on Islamist militants in Punjab, after at least 70 people were killed in an Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore.</p> <p>Officials have told the Reuters news agency that a full-scale paramilitary Rangers operation will be launched.</p> <p>The security forces will be given powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects</p> <p>“I am here to reiterate the national determination to fight terrorism to eliminate it from our society,” said <strong>Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif</strong>. “The fight is not over. In the last three years, the government and security agencies have reduced terrorist activities. We will follow the path of success, despite recent attempts.”</p> <h3><strong>What happened?</strong></h3> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Pakistan's PM Sharif demands swift action against terror following <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lahore?src=hash">#Lahore</a> attacks <a href="https://t.co/N4fkJBb9Y2">https://t.co/N4fkJBb9Y2</a> <a href="https://t.co/ho1kcLoJSG">pic.twitter.com/ho1kcLoJSG</a></p>— <span class="caps">BBC</span> News (World) (@BBCWorld) <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCWorld/status/714465601465487362">March 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">'This is against all of humanity:' Eyewitnesses describe deadly Pakistan bombing <a href="https://t.co/eWh3eJOvH6">https://t.co/eWh3eJOvH6</a></p>— <span class="caps">TIME</span>.com (@TIME) <a href="https://twitter.com/TIME/status/714431615280267264">March 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Scores of people were killed and injured when a suicide bomber struck in a busy public park on Easter Sunday.</p> <p>It is the worst attack in Pakistan since the December 2014 massacre of 134 schoolchildren at a military academy in the city of Peshawar.</p> <p>Pakistan is a majority Muslim country. However, it has a Christian minority of around two million people.</p> <h3><strong>Jamaat-ur-Ahrar</strong></h3> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"align="center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Jamaat-ul-Ahrarn spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan has taken responsibility for yesterday's horrendous attack on… <a href="https://t.co/k4FNyvK3UJ">https://t.co/k4FNyvK3UJ</a></p>— Mohammed Abbasi (@MohammedAbbasi) <a href="https://twitter.com/MohammedAbbasi/status/714354179121266688">March 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>The faction has claimed responsibility for the attack and issued a direct challenge to the government.</p> <p>It has said it was behind several big attacks since it split from the Pakistani Taliban in 2014.</p> <h3><strong>Militancy in Pakistan</strong></h3> <p>Pakistan has been plagued by militant violence since it joined a US-led campaign against Islamist militancy after 9/11.</p> <p>While the army, police, government and Western interests have been prime targets of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, Christians and other religions have also been targeted.</p> <p>Security forces have killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under a crackdown launched after the 2014 Peshawar school massacre.</p> <p>Most groups, like the Pakistani Taliban, are fighting to topple the government and introduce a strict interpretation of Islamic law.</p> <h3><strong>What they are saying</strong></h3> <p>“The target was Christians. We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore”_ – <strong>Jamaat-ur-Ahrar spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan</strong></p> <p>“The technicalities are yet to be worked out. There are some legal issues also with bringing in Rangers, but the military and government are on the same page.”_ – <strong>Senior government official</strong>, on condition of anonymity.</p>