Pakistani Taliban faction claims Easter park bombing
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A bombing on Easter Sunday killed 65 people in a park in the eastern city of Lahore that was crowded with Christians, including many children.
A breakaway Pakistani faction of the militant Taliban group claimed responsibility. Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, told the Associated Press that a suicide bomber with the faction deliberately targeted the Christian community.
The explosion took place near the children’s rides in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park local police chief Haider Ashraf said. He said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, but investigations were ongoing.
The attack killed 65 people and wounded over 300, said Deeba Shahnaz, a spokesman for Lahore rescue administration.
Punjab’s chief minister Shahbaz Sharif announced three days of mourning and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice, said Zaeem Qadri, a spokesman for the provincial government.
Syrian forces recapture ancient city of Palmyra from IS
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian government forces recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra on Sunday, scoring an important victory over Islamic State fighters who waged a 10-month reign of terror there and dealing the group its first major defeat since an international agreement to battle terrorism in the fractured nation took effect last year.
The city known to Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert” is famous for its 2,000-year-old ruins that once drew tens of thousands of visitors each year before IS destroyed many of the monuments. The extent of the destruction remained unclear. Initial footage on Syrian TV showed widespread rubble and shattered statues. But Palmyra’s grand colonnades appeared to be in relatively good condition.
The government forces were supported by Lebanese militias and Russian air power. The Islamic State now faces pressure on several fronts as Kurdish ground forces advance on its territory in Syria’s north and government forces have a new path to its de facto capital, Raqqa, and the contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour.
International airstrikes have pounded IS territory, killing two top leaders in recent weeks, according to the Pentagon. Those strikes have also inflicted dozens of civilian casualties.
In Iraq, government forces backed by the U.S. and Iran are preparing a ground offensive to retake the country’s second largest city, Mosul.
10 Things to Know for Monday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:
1. BLAST KILLS SCORES ON EASTER SUNDAY IN PAKISTAN
Taliban extremists claim responsibility for the deadly bombing in a park in Lehore crowded with Christians, including many children.
2. SYRIAN TROOPS RETAKE HISTORIC PALMYRA
Questions remain over what can be salvaged from the city’s famous Roman monuments after the Islamic State group’s 10-month reign of terror there.
Pope at Easter recalls victims of ‘blind, brutal terrorism’
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.
Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks Sunday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard.
In Jerusalem, the cavernous Holy Sepulcher church — where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected — was packed with worshippers commemorating the day they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.
Who lives, dies in attacks can give clues about terror cells
BRUSSELS (AP) — The bomb maker, the transporter, the landlord and the cipher. The four men slipped away after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, and all but one reappeared as key figures in the Islamic State cell that went on to attack Brussels.
Two are dead, one is captured, and the fate of the fourth remains a mystery.
Who lives and who dies in an attack can provide crucial clues to how terrorist cells are structured, demonstrating who is considered disposable and who is crucial for the next job. That status can be fleeting, as the two attacks show that someone considered vital in one operation may be sacrificed in another.
Some of the figures in the Paris plot had become “cannon fodder” by the time of the Brussels attacks, said Nicolas Henin, a journalist held hostage by Islamic State for 10 months.
“Once they had performed their services in Paris, they were considered expendable,” he wrote. “That is how (the Islamic State group) works in terms of human resources.”
Riot at Brussels attacks shrine; 13 anti-terror raids made
BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian riot police clashed Sunday with hundreds of right-wing hooligans at a temporary shrine honoring victims of the Brussels suicide bombings, as investigators launched fresh anti-terror raids, taking four more people into custody.
Police used water cannon when scuffles broke out in front of the Bourse, which has become a symbolic rallying point for people to pay their respects to those who died in Tuesday’s attacks. Black clad men carrying an anti-Islamic State group banner with an expletive on it trampled parts of the shrine, shouting Nazi slogans. Ten were arrested and two police officers injured.
“We had 340 hooligans from different football clubs who came to Brussels and we knew for sure that they would create some trouble,” Police Commissioner Christian De Coninck said. “It was a very difficult police operation because lots of families with kids were here.”
Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur expressed his disgust, with Belgium still in mourning over the suicide bombings at Brussels airport and subway, which killed at least 31 people and injured some 270.
“The police were not deployed to protect people from these hooligans but a whole other threat,” said Mayeur told RTL television.
Supreme Court nominee formed lasting bonds at Harvard
BOSTON (AP) — From his first days at Harvard, Merrick Garland’s classmates pegged him as a star. Smartest guy in the room, self-confident, easygoing and thoughtful are some of the compliments they still pay him 40 years later.
For Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the bonds formed at Harvard College and Harvard Law School have stayed with him and come into play during a career in private practice, as a prosecutor and on the bench.
Classmates said Garland followed a straight and narrow path, even as a young man during a tumultuous time marked by Watergate and protests over the Vietnam War. Every move he made, even back then, seems to have been designed for an unblemished track to success.
“This is something he has modestly prepared himself for his whole career,” said Elliot Gerson, a friend from his Harvard undergraduate days who now oversees the U.S. Rhodes Scholarships.
Garland graduated with honors from Harvard College in 1974 and Harvard Law School in 1977, helping to pay for his education by working summers as a shoe-store clerk and selling his comic book collection. Since then he’s kept strong ties, teaching antitrust law, serving on the Board of Overseers and participating in moot court for law students.
Ireland recalls 1916 Easter Rising against British rule
DUBLIN (AP) — Thousands of soldiers marched solemnly through the crowded streets of Dublin on Sunday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising against Britain, a fateful rebellion that reduced parts of the capital to ruins and fired the country’s flame of independence.
The Easter parade through Dublin featured military ceremonies at key buildings seized in 1916, when about 1,200 rebels sought to ignite a popular revolt against Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.
The five-hour procession paused at noon outside the colonnaded General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the rebel headquarters a century ago, where commander Padraig Pearse formally launched the revolt by proclaiming to bemused Dubliners the creation of a “provisional” Republic of Ireland.
A soldier in today’s Irish Defence Forces, Capt. Peter Kelleher, stood in front of the restored post office Sunday to read the full, florid text of Pearse’s 1916 proclamation.
“In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom,” Kelleher said to an audience that included Ireland’s leaders and scores of grandchildren of the rebels.
Soldier’s shooting of Palestinian sets off uproar in Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) — Amateur video appearing to show an Israeli soldier killing an already wounded Palestinian attacker sparked uproar in Israel on Sunday, reflecting the deep divisions in the country following six months of violence.
As the Israeli military pressed on with an investigation, nationalistic politicians accused the army of abandoning the soldier, while political doves bemoaned the erosion of the nation’s morals. Palestinians, meanwhile, said the shooting proved their claims that Israel is guilty of using excessive force and carrying out extrajudicial killings.
The shooting took place last Thursday in Hebron, the volatile West Bank city that has been a focal point of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The military said two Palestinians stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops shot and killed the pair.
In a video released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, one of the attackers appears to still be alive after the initial shooting. The video, taken by a Palestinian volunteer for the group, shows the wounded attacker lying on the ground, slowly moving his head. About a minute later, a soldier raises his rifle, cocks the weapon and fires. Blood is then seen streaming from the Palestinian’s head.
The Israeli military quickly arrested the soldier and opened an investigation into what it said appeared to be a “grave breach” of its values. A military court has ordered the soldier to remain held until Tuesday while the investigation continues.
Syracuse-Virginia, Notre Dame-UNC play for two Final 4 spots
After 62 games in the NCAA Tournament, it’s time to determine the last two spots in the Final Four.
Two regional final games are set for Sunday night, with No. 10 seed Syracuse playing No. 1 seed Virginia in Chicago then No. 6 Notre Dame taking on No. 1 North Carolina in Philadelphia.
Virginia and North Carolina are trying to avoid what happened to the other No. 1 seeds: Kansas and Oregon were eliminated in the first Elite Eight games on Saturday night.
The winners Sunday will join Oklahoma and Villanova in the Final Four in Houston.