Suicide Bombers attack on Churches in Pakistan; Kill at least 15
A pair of suicide bombers attacked two churches in the Eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday as worshippers prayed inside the Churches. At least 15 people, including two police officers who were protecting the churches were also killed in the explosions and over 80 others injured. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed responsibility for the assault in a statement emailed to reporters, and warned, "There will be more of such attacks."
The explosions occurred in quick succession in the Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad at two churches while parishioners worshipped at Sunday morning services. The churches are about 600 meters (650 yards) apart. At least 70 people were wounded, said Zahid Pervez, the provincial director general of health, who gave the death toll. Witnesses said the bombers targeted a crowded gate when a large group of worshippers was waiting to enter one of the churches.
As news of the attack spread, Christians in other parts of Pakistan took to the streets in protest. A large crowd gathered at the scene of the blasts, protesting about the lack of security. Subsequently, the angry crowd blocked a major highway, ransacked a bus terminal and burned two people to death who they suspected of being involved in the attacks.
A spokesman for the Punjab provincial Government, Zaeem Qadri, also said it was unfortunate that the mob had killed the two suspects rather than turning them over to police. He said authorities are reinforcing security at the 481 remaining churches across the city.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain have condemned the latest bombings. Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, the chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a rights group, said the Lahore attacks highlighted the government's failure to protect minorities.
Pakistan's military last year began an offensive against militant bases in the mountainous north-west, bordering Afghanistan. Offshoots of the Pakistani Taliban have warned of attacks in response. However, Lahore, the capital of the densely populated Punjab province, has largely escaped militant violence and is seen as a relatively peaceful city.
Life in Pakistan is increasingly dangerous for religious minorities, especially Christians. They have been targeted by extremist Sunni Muslim militants and are also discriminated against in the wider society, where they are often limited to menial jobs like garbage collection.
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