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December 18, 2017

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Nine killed in Quetta church suicide bombing


QUETTA: Nine people were killed and 56 injured when two suicide bombers attacked a church here during the Sunday service just over a week before Christmas. In a brief statement on its Amaq news agency, the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two women were among the dead at the Methodist church, said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Harifal. Several of the wounded were in a serious condition. Security forces intercepted and shot dead one bomber outside, but the second attacker managed to reach the church's main door where he blew himself up.

"Police were quick to react and stop the attackers from entering the main hall," provincial police chief Moazzam Jah told AFP. Around 250 people normally attend the church on Sundays, Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said, but the congregation had swollen to more than 400 because it was close to Christmas.

"God forbid, if terrorists had succeeded in their plans, more than 400 precious lives would have been at stake," tweeted the home minister. "The terrorists had weapons and it seems they wanted to take hostages inside the church. The police and FC guards present stopped this from happening," said Bugti.

Bugti said the law-enforcement agencies took 16 minutes to complete the operation, which was led by CCPO, DC Quetta and IGP Balochistan. According to DIG Abdul Razzaq Cheema, two terrorists were on the run after the attack and a search operation was under way.

According to officials, the two suicide bombers were between the ages of 16 and 20. The suicide jacket which was defused contained 15 kilogrammes of explosive material. Inspector General Police (IGP) Moazzam Ansari confirmed to the media that 400 people were inside the church at the time of the attack.

Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri ordered a report into the attack. The church had organised different programmes all throughout December to mark Christmas, according to its Facebook page and was holding a 'Sunday School Christmas Programme' at the time of the attack.

Later in the day, Commander Southern Command Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa arrived at the Civil Hospital. He was accompanied by Inspector General of Frontier Corps Major General Nadeem Anjum and other officials.

Lt Gen Saleem Bajwa and Major Gen Anjum visited the hospital’s trauma centre and met with the victims of the attack. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa said the attack targeting our brotherly Christian Pakistanis was an attempt to cloud the Christmas celebrations and create religious cleavages.

“Effective response by LEAs is commendable. We stay united and steadfast to respond against such heinous attempts,” General Bajwa added. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal condemned the attack.

He shared on Twitter: "Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon Road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts." President Mamnoon Hussain strongly condemned the attack and expressed grief at the loss of innocent lives.

He also directed authorities to ensure best medical treatment possible for the injured. Terrorists will be taken to their logical conclusion and their cowardly attacks will not weaken the nation’s resolve, he said.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi strongly condemned the terrorist attack and said the whole nation was united in the fight against terrorism and had the determination to confront it.

The prime minister praised the security forces for their prompt response, the PM office media wing said in a press release. He also expressed his sympathies with the victims' families and wished for an early recovery of the injured.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal condemned the attack as a sign of “cowardice” and said Pakistan’s enemies wanted to spread violence in the country. “We are fighting a war against these terror elements,” he said.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah condemned the attack and expressed his solidarity with the people and government of Balochistan. “The attack on the church was a cowardly act by terrorists,” he said.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, condemning the attack, said those who target places of worship do not believe in religion or faith. He also expressed solidarity with the families of victims.

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.

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