What We Know About the Taliban Faction That Targeted Christians in Pakistan Bombing

PHOTO: Pakistani police officers stand guard at the site of a bomb blast in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, March, 27, 2016. PlayK.M. Chuadary/AP Photo
WATCH Pakistan Attack Targeting Christians Leaves 70 Dead

The shocking attack left dozens of casualties, mostly children. A bomb went off Easter Sunday in a public park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore that killed 70 and injured more than 350 people. Devastated families are now cocooned in sorrow and grief.

Police investigators say a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a vest at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest public parks in the city. Lahore, the political and cultural hub capital of Pakistan, is now left reeling from the incredible loss.

The group claiming responsibility for the attack: Jamaat-e-Ahrar.

Here’s what you should know:

What Is Jamaat-e-Ahrar?

Jamaat-e-Ahrar is a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. Its formal name is Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-e-Ahrar, or TTP-JA. Militant leaders say the emergence of the group was largely inspired by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The group is allied with al-Qaeda, and may have pledged allegiance to ISIS. The group formed in August 2014, according to the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, and is led by former commanders of the Pakistani Taliban.

The group includes Taliban factions from the tribal agencies of Mohmand, Bajaur, Khyber and Orakzai, and the districts of Charsadda, Peshawar and Swat.

The commander of Jamaat-e-Ahrar is Umar Khalid Khorasani, and this tweet from November 2014 was taken from an account believed to be his.

Why Attack a Public Park?

A spokesman for the group, Ahsanullah Ahsan, told The Associated Press Sunday the attack targeted Christians celebrating Easter. It underscored the perilous position of Pakistan’s minorities. Today, religious minorities total just 9 million among 183 million Pakistanis, with Christians accounting for less than 2 percent of Pakistan’s total population.

But officials say a majority of the victims were Muslim, a reminder that terror organizations claiming to protect and defend religion often do so at the expense of their own.

What Does Jamaat-e-Ahrar Want?

The group seeks to overthrow the Pakistani government, impose sharia (Islamic) law, seize the country’s nuclear weapons and wage jihad, according to YouTube videos the group has posted.

How Has Pakistan Responded?

Pakistani officials have condemned the brazen attack and have said justice will be served.