US diplomat's wife and child among five killed in terror attack on church

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The Independent Online

George Bush, the US President, expressed outrage after unknown terrorists hurled grenades into a Protestant church in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, yesterday, killing five people, including an American woman and her daughter.

The attack on the church in the heart of the diplomatic enclave injured five British expatriates, including a family of four, although none were critically hurt. Several other foreign nationals among the 45 wounded were said to be in a serious condition.

The fifth Briton, who is the wife of an American, is due to stay in hospital for two or three nights, the Foreign Office said.

The other worshippers killed were a Pakistani, an Afghan and an unknown person, who officials said may be an assailant, raising speculation he was on a suicide mission.

Mr Bush condemned the raid, carried out by up to three people, as a "terrorist attack". He denounced the "acts of murder that cannot be tolerated by any person of conscience nor justified by any cause".

He pledged to work with the Pakistani government to find those responsible in the wake of the execution of another US citizen in Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. A US grand jury has indicted the British-born Said Omar Sheikh over the kidnapping and murder, and has called on Pakistan to extradite him.

Yesterday, survivors spoke of deafening blasts, smoke and chaos as parents screamed for children and worshippers hid under chairs and behind pillars.

Though no group claimed the attack, suspicions fell on hardline Islamic groups opposed to the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf's support for Mr Bush's war on terror. Hundreds of activists have been detained in Pakistan in recent months and seven militant groups have been banned, but some Americans say General Musharraf is not doing enough.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former Navy pilot, said yesterday: "It's clear that he does not have control over parts of his country and elements of his society and he's got a long way to go. The question is whether it was carried out by some deranged person who has been affected by this tremendous influx of hatred toward the United States ... or is it part of an overall plan to kill Americans?"

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said the incident was a "serious outrage, particularly because it took place within what we thought was the well-protected diplomatic enclave".

The attack was the second on Christians in Pakistan since the war on terrorism began. In October, gunmen killed 15 Christians and a Muslim in an attack on a church in Bahawalpur.

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