Attack on Pakistani church kills over 60 people
PESHAWAR (Pakistan) — A pair of suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a historic church in northwestern Pakistan today (Sept 22), killing over 60 people in the deadliest-ever attack on the country’s Christian minority, officials said.
The bombing in Peshawar, which wounded another 120 people, underlines the threat posed by Islamic extremists as the government seeks a peace deal with domestic Taliban militants. It will likely intensify criticism from those who believe that negotiating peace with militants is a mistake.
The attack occurred as hundreds of worshippers were coming out of the church in the city’s Kohati Gate district after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn, said a top government administrator Sahibzada Anees.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Mr Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshippers. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Survivors wailed and hugged each other in the wake of the blasts. The white walls of the All Saints Church were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings or other metal objects contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage. Blood stained the floor and was splashed on the walls. Plates filled with rice were scattered across the ground.
The attack was carried out by a pair of suicide bombers who detonated their explosives almost simultaneously, said police officer Shafqat Malik. Authorities found their body parts and were trying to determine their age, he said.
The blasts killed over 60 people and wounded another 120, said Mr Arshad Javed, the top health official at the hospital in Peshawar where the victims were being treated. The dead included several women and children, said Dr Sher Ali Khan, another doctor at the hospital.
The number of casualties from the blasts was so high that the hospital was running out of caskets for the dead and beds for the wounded, said Mr Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a former information minister of surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province who was on the scene.
“What have we done wrong to these people?” asked one of the wounded, Mr John Tariq, referring to the attackers. “Why are we being killed?”
Mr Tariq’s father was killed by the blasts, he said.