Islamic state suicide bombers attack Pakistan church, 9 dead
At least nine people were killed and 15 injured when heavily-armed terrorists struck a church in Pakistan’s restive Quetta city on Sunday.
The attack during the midday service at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church was a targeted assault on the minority Christian community just a week before Christmas.
Quetta police chief Moazam Ansari said 400 worshippers were present when the gunmen attempted to storm into the church. He said policemen assigned to the church’s security reacted in a timely manner and averted a much larger tragedy.
An eyewitness present inside the church said the attackers scuffled with the building’s guard when their attempt to enter the main hall undetected failed.
When the gunmen shot the guard, police officials posted around the church noticed something was amiss and opened fire at the attackers.
Balochistan home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said that at least two suicide bombers were involved in the assault. “One attacker was killed at the gate by police after an intense gunfight while the other wearing suicide vest entered the church and detonated his explosives,” he said.
The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack. The terror group’s Amaq News Agency posted a statement online, saying attackers had stormed the church in Quetta but provided no evidence for the claim.
The Bethel Memorial Church has been the target of a terrorist attack in the past.
Sources in the Balochistan government said Methodist schools and churches recently received threats from the Sajjan group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The threats were also received in Karachi and Lahore, resulting in missionary schools cancelling their examinations and taking an early winter break.
Christians make up an estimated 1.6% of Pakistan’s population 200 million people.
(With inputs from Agencies)