Tuesday 20 February 2018

Suicide bombers kill 78 in explosion at Pakistani Mass

A Christian woman mourns next to the coffin of her brother, who was killed in the suicide attack in Peshawar
A Christian woman mourns next to the coffin of her brother, who was killed in the suicide attack in Peshawar

Ashfaq Yusufzai Peshawar Taha Siddiqui Islamabad and Dean Nelson New Delhi

TWO suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Pakistan as worshippers left Mass, killing at least 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in recent history.

They were believed to have detonated vests containing 26lbs of explosive after shooting police guards dead at All Saints Church in Peshawar yesterday.

Police said 350 members of the congregation had been in the church and that the death toll was expected to rise because many of the injured were in a critical condition.

"The number of dead will be more than 200 because the church was full to its capacity," one worshipper, Caroline White, said.

She claimed that police had failed to protect the church properly.

VICTIMS

Many of the victims were believed to be women and children because the church was close to a market used by women to buy food for their families. Seven children and 34 women were known to be among the dead.

The white walls and the floor of the church, which was built in 1851, were stained with blood and splattered with rice.

The service was popular because worshippers received a free meal on the lawn in front of the church following Mass.

Parishioners said survivors were crying and hugging one another amid the carnage.

"There were blasts and there was hell for all of us . . . when I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people," said Nazir John.

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party controls the local Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, condemned the "senseless" attack.

Members of Pakistan's Christian and Hindu minorities, which make up less than 5pc of the country's population, burned tyres and forced shops to close in protest at the government's alleged failure to protect them.

"Today's attack shows that despite our warnings the government is not waking up," said Haroon Sardayal, the chairman of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement.

There has been an upsurge in terrorist attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan in recent years.

In 2011, the Christian minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for opposing blasphemy laws. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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