Protesters hit the streets after blasts near Lahore churches leave 15 dead
Pakistani Christians chant slogans during demonstration to condemn the suicide bombing attack on two churches, Sunday, March 15, 2015 in Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bombers exploded themselves near two churches in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday as worshippers were gathered inside, killing at least a dozen people, officials said, in the latest attack against religious minorities in the country. (Photo: AP Photo)
A pair of suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, as worshippers prayed inside, killing 15 people in the latest assault on religious minorities in the country, officials said.
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 such attacks.”
Afterward, an angry Christian mob blocked a major highway, ransacked a bus terminal and burned two people to death who they suspected of being involved in the attacks. Christian demonstrators blocked roads in other major Pakistani cities as well.
The explosions occurred in quick succession in the Christian neighbourhood of Youhanabad at two churches, about 600 metres apart, during Sunday morning services. Witnesses said the bombers targeted a crowded gate when a large group of worshippers was waiting to enter one of the churches.
At least 70 people were wounded, said Zahid Pervez, the provincial director general of health, and local hospitals filled with casualties and scenes of mourning.
Shaheen Bibi’s 10-year-old son Abhishak was among those killed. “My son had gone to the church to pray for a good result in his examinations,” Bibi said as she cried and struck her head against the chest of a relative. “He wanted me to sew him some new clothes if he passed his examinations.”
The angry crowd attacked two people they thought were connected to the attack, and burned them to death while others attacked buses in the city, said Deputy Inspector General of police Haider Ashraf.
Two police officers who were protecting the churches were also killed in the explosions, which Ashraf confirmed were caused by suicide bombers.
A spokesman for the Punjab provincial government said authorities are reinforcing security at the 481 remaining churches across the city.
Militants attacks targeting minorities have intensified recently, including attacks on a string of mosques belonging Shiite Muslims, a minority in Pakistan. In 2013, twin blasts at a church in Peshawar killed 85 people.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has his power base in Lahore and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, also runs the Punjab government, where his brother is chief minister.
As per PTI reports, later on Sunday, angry Christians did not allow two ministers, top police and district administration officials to visit the blast sites.
Christians in Faisalabad, Nankana Sahib, Sargodha and Multan, Karachi and Peshawar also took to the streets to protest the attack on churches.
Meanwhile, Irfan Jamil, Bishop of Lahore, appealed to Christians to stay calm and not let terrorists succeed in their design.
“Terrorists want to destroy the peace of this country. They are attacking mosques and markets, too. Like the minorities, they are also attacking Muslims,” he said.
All missionary schools in Pakistan will remain closed on Monday to mourn those killed in the attacks, he said.
Source:: Indian Express