Quetta blast: Nine killed, 44 injured as Islamic State suicide bomber attacks church in Pakistan

Karachi/Islamabad: Two suicide bombers attacked a packed church during a Sunday service in the restive Pakistani city of Quetta, killing eight people and injuring 44 others in a targeted assault on the minority Christian community ahead of Christmas in the Muslim nation.

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group’s Amaq News Agency posted a statement online, saying attackers had stormed the church in Quetta — the capital of Balochistan province. But the terror group provided no evidence for the claim.

Balochistan home minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said that at least two suicide bombers were involved in the attack on the Bethel Memorial Church on Zarghoon road in Quetta.

"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.

Bugti said that the terrorists had weapons and it seems they wanted to take hostages inside the church.

"The security forces foiled their plan," he added.

Balochistan's Inspector General Moazzam Ansari said there were 400 worshippers inside the church when it was attacked.

Ansari said that police assigned to the church's security reacted in a timely manner and averted a much larger tragedy.

"It was a coordinated attack," he said, adding that the security forces have cleared the church.

Wasim Baig of Civil Hospital said that nine people were killed in the attack, including two women.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Two women were among the dead, and 10 women and seven children were among the injured, hospital officials said.

According to the church's Facebook page, it had organised different programmes all throughout December to mark Christmas, and was holding a 'Sunday School Christmas Programme' at the time of the attack.

The has been the target of a terrorist attack in the past.

Sources in the Balochistan government said that few days back Methodist schools and churches had received threatening notes from the Sajjan group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The threatening notes were also received in Karachi and Lahore which led to missionary schools cancelling their examinations and taking an early winter/Christmas break.

Following the attack, an emergency was declared in all hospitals across Quetta.

Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa condemned the attack, calling it "an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations/create religious cleavages."

"Quetta church attack targeting our brotherly Christian Pakistanis is an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations/create religious cleavages. Effective response by LEAs is commendable. We stay united and steadfast to respond against such heinous attempts," he said.

Pakistan interior minister Ahsan Iqbal condemned the attack, which came a day after Pakistan observed the third anniversary of the Peshawar school attack of 2014 which killed at least 150 people, mostly students.

Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal condemned the terror attack, saying Pakistan's resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts of terrorists.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan also strongly condemned the terror attack.

"The govt must ensure special protection for churches as Christmas approaches. My prayers go to the victims' families and for the speedy recovery of the injured," Khan tweeted.

On 15 March, 2015, the Taliban suicide bombers attacked two churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, killing 15 people and wounding 70 others.

Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan's 200 million people. Today's assault raised concerns about the security of religious minorities, especially Christians, in a country with a dismal record when it comes to the treatment and protection of religious minorities, analysts say.

Pakistani officials denied that IS had an organised presence in the country, however, even though the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Baluchistan in recent years.

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2017 07:33:22 IST

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