At least 75 dead in suicide attack on Christian church in Pakistan
A suicide attack on a Christian church in Peshawar has left at least 75 dead with dozens more wounded.
The attack follows a rampage by Muslims through Christian neighborhoods a few months ago that saw 2 churches burned along with 100 homes.
The attack occurred as worshipers left the All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 worshipers had attended the service and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.
Dozens of people were killed and more than 100 wounded, said Akhtar Ali Shah, the home secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
The death toll continued to rise as rescue workers sifted through the damaged church property, said Hamid Ullah, a rescue worker with Al Khidmat Foundation, a rescue service operated by the Jamaat-e-Islami political party. He said his team had recovered 75 bodies.
The dead included women, children and two Muslim police officers who had been posted outside the church. Witness reported scenes of mayhem as rescue workers ferried victims from the church, which witnesses said was scattered with body parts, shrapnel and bloodied clothing.
On Sunday afternoon, the bodies of 45 victims were placed in coffins and moved to the nearby Saint John's Church, the oldest church in the city.
The coffins were placed next to one another in the church playground as dozens of grieving relatives and mourners gathered around. The mood was somber and angry.
A large contingent of police officers was deployed outside the church, and mourners were allowed to enter the compound after a thorough security check. Ambulances were allowed to enter the compound one by one as dead bodies were then placed in vehicles to take them to the morgue.
The police said it was not clear whether the attack was the work of a lone attacker or of two suicide bombers. Muhammad Ilyas, a senior officer in Peshawar, said it was more likely that a lone suicide bomber had first thrown a hand grenade before detonating his explosives.
"As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another," said Azim Ghori, a witness.
It was the worst attack in years on the Christian minority in Pakistan, and coincides with a broader wave of attacks on religious minorities including Shiite Muslims this year.
Could the Pakistani government do more to protect Chirstians, Shias, and other religious minorities? Of course they can. They are great at giving lip service to ecumenism, but when it comes time to demonstrate their commitment to religious freedom, they drop the ball. Like Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood, pretty words about protecting Christians were made hollow by radical preachers stirring up the population against the Copts.
The west continues to remain silent and conduct business as usual with middle eastern countries that countenance violence against Christians. And Christians in the region continue to vote with their feet and flee the oppression for more tolerant countries.