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Suicide bombers kill 78 at Pak church
120 injured as two attackers target worshippers at Sunday Mass in Peshawar
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Pakistan after Sunday Mass, killing at least 78 persons in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country.

The attackers struck the historic white-stone All Saints Church in the north-western city of Peshawar just as hundreds of parishioners streamed out of the building.

"I heard two explosions. People started to run. Human remains were strewn all over the church," said an eyewitness. Over 120 others were injured in the attack, said City Commissioner Sahibzada Muhammad Anis, adding that around 600 to 700 persons were inside the church at the time of the blasts.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the deathtoll of 78 included 34 women and seven children.

Bomb Disposal Squad chief Shafqat Malik told mediapersons said the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers, who were carrying around 12 kg explosive in their vests. The body parts of the attackers had been recovered and sent for forensic examination, he said.

SP (City) Ismail Tariq said the two attackers opened fire at the security guards deployed at the church killing one guard and injuring the other before entering the premises. The two bombers detonated their explosive-laden vests within an interval of 30 seconds after entering the church.

The Taliban-linked militant group TTP Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack. "They are the enemies of Islam, therefore, we target them," said the group's spokesman, Ahmed Marwat. Christians make up about four per cent of Pakistan's population of 180 million and tend to keep a low-profile.

Sunday's attacks could complicate efforts by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to engage militants in peace negotiations at a time when roadside bombs, targeted killings and suicide attacks continue unabated.

Flaying the attack, Sharif said: "Terrorists have no religion and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions. He said such cruel acts "reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists". He expressed solidarity with Christians.

Some residents, enraged at the lack of adequate security at the church, took to the streets immediately after the attack, burning tyres and shouting slogans. Shops were closed in the Kohati Gate area where several other churches are located.

"Terrorists have not spared mosques, temples and churches. Please have mercy on us," said a protester.

Christians frequently find themselves accused under the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan . The Kohati Gate area in Peshawar's old quarter has witnessed several militant attacks in recent years though none of them targeted Christians. The congested neighbourhood is usually packed with people, mostly women, as the area has several markets and shopping centres. Many Christians live in the vicinity and visit the church in large numbers for Sunday service.

Officials of Lady Reading Hospital described the condition of 13 injured as critical.

(With agency inputs)

How it happened

  • The two attackers struck the historic white-stone All Saints Church in Peshawar just as hundreds of parishioners streamed out of the building
  • They opened fire at the security guards deployed at the church, killing one guard and injuring the other before entering the premises
  • The two bombers detonated their explosive-laden vests within an interval of 30 seconds after entering the church

Deadliest attack on Christians in pak

  • This was the worst attack in Pakistan's history on the Christian minority, which has not been targeted as frequently as other minorities like Shias or Ahmadis.
  • Christians frequently find themselves accused under the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan

 Nawaz Sharif, Pak PMSuch cruel acts reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists.

Nawaz Sharif, Pak PM

 

 

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