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78 people killed in bombing at Pakistan Christian church

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A suicide attack at a Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan has killed at 78 people and left many more people injured. It was just the latest in a series of sickening attacks on that country\'s Christian minority.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Worshipers were leaving the All Saints Church after Sunday morning services when people began to line up on the lawn for free food. Two explosions tore the crowd of at least 600 people. "As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another," Azim Ghori, a witness said.

"Such an attack on women and children is against humanity," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said. He arrived in Peshawar to say that among the 78 dead were 34 women and 7 children. Akhtar Ali Shah, the home secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, said that more than 100 people had been wounded and that 37 of those were children.

Two Muslim police officers posted outside the church perished in the explosion. Rescue workers pulled victims from the church, strewn with body parts, shrapnel and bloodied clothing.

The bodies of 45 victims were placed in coffins and moved to the nearby St. John's Church, the oldest church in the city. Police were stationed outside the church. Mourners were allowed to enter the compound after a thorough security check.

A senior official of the bomb disposal squad, Shafqat Malik said evidence collected from the church confirmed that two suicide bombers had carried out the attack. "Each bomber carried six kilograms of explosives," he said. The attack was part of a broader wave of attacks on religious minorities, including Shiite Muslims this year.

A Muslim mob swarmed through a Christian neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore in March, burning two churches and more than 100 houses.

These terrorist attacks are chiefly the work of Sunni extremist militant groups, although some have also been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

All Saints Church is one of the oldest in Peshawar and was built during the British colonial era. It is at Kohati Gate in the city's old quarter, where numerous militant attacks have occurred in recent years, mostly targeting Muslims.

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been trying to initiate peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban,this has been publicly rejected by the Taliban, which later claimed responsibility for the killing of a senior army general in Upper Dir, near the Afghan border, last week.

"The terrorists have no religion, and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions," Sharif said.  

The Pakistan Ulema Council, the largest clerical body, also condemned the blast, saying that the council was "standing with our Christian brothers in this tragedy."

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