Pakistani forces launch anti-terror drive in Punjab

Islamabad, March 28 (IANS) A day after a powerful blast ripped through a public park in Lahore city killing over 70 people, Pakistani security forces on Monday launched an operation against militants, the media reported.

The operation was initiated following an order from Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif. The decision to launch the operation was taken at a high level military meeting attended by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, The Nation reported.

According to sources, intelligence agencies, Pakistan Rangers and the army conducted five operations on Sunday night in Multan, Faisalabad and Sialkot.

The security forces arrested a number of militants and facilitators, sources said.

The attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park of Lahore city, the capital of Punjab province, left at least 72 people dead, mostly women and children, and more than 250 injured.

A Pakistani Taliban splinter group “Jamaat-ul-Ahrar” claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the group deliberately targeted Christians celebrating Easter.

Sunday’s suicide bombing was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since the December 16, 2014 Army Public School massacre, which killed at least 134 school children prompting a government crackdown on Islamist militancy, and the launch of the National Action Plan (NAP).

“We must bring the killers of our innocent brothers, sisters and children to justice and will never allow these savage inhumans to over-run our life and liberty,” military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a tweet.

Pakistan has been plagued by militant violence for the last 15 years, since it joined a US-led campaign against Islamist militancy after the September 11, 2001, attacks by the Al-Qaeda in the US.

The security forces have killed and arrested hundreds of militants under the crackdown launched after the 2014 APS attack.

Pakistan’s security agencies have long been accused of nurturing militants to be used against Afghanistan and India.

But some groups, such as the Pakistani Taliban, have now turned against the state.

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