Pakistan church attack: Suicide bombers storm church and detonate explosives as congregation worships

Eight people killed and up to 42 wounded before attackers thwarted

Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan killing at least 5

Two suicide bombers stormed a Christian church in south-western Pakistan, killing at least eight people and wounding up to 42 others before being stopped by police guards.

The gunmen, who were wearing vests filled with explosives, attacked the church in Quetta city when Sunday services had just opened.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Baluchistan province, said hundreds of worshippers were attending the church ahead of Christmas. He said one attacker was killed at the entrance to the church, while the other set off his payload inside.

A policeman guides a family away after after gunmen attacked the church (Reuter/Naseer Ahmed)

Police guards at the church exchanged fire with the attackers before they could enter the main sanctuary, said provincial police chief Moazzam Jah.

“There were nearly 400 people inside the church, but the attackers couldn’t get inside the services,” Mr Jah said. “We killed one of them, and the other one blew himself up after police wounded him.”

Baluchistan police chief Moazzam Ansari confirmed the death toll.

Pakistani security personnel take position after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quetta, Pakistan (Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty)

Mr Ansari praised the response of security forces guarding the church, saying the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building. “Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he told reporters.

Quetta police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search is underway for two suspected accomplices who escaped.

Mr Jah said the church had guards because Christian places of worship are often targeted by Islamist extremist groups

Isis claimed responsibility for the attack via their Aamaq propaganda agency, saying two members had stormed the church, without providing evidence for the claim.

Pakistani security personnel advance after suicide bombers attacked a Methodist church during a Sunday service in Quett 

Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene, while women and children were being led out of the church’s main gate.

Hospitals officials said two women were among the dead while another five women and two children were among the wounded.

Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, said he heard a blast in the middle of the service, followed by heavy gunfire. “It was chaos. Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall.”

Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest against the lack of security.

Pakistan’s president and other senior officials condemned the attack.

“Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts,” Mohammad Faisal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, said.

Baluchistan has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting against the state to demand more of a share of the gas and mineral-rich region’s resources. They also accuse the central government of discrimination.

The Taliban, Sunni Islamist militants and sectarian groups linked to al-Qaeda and Isis also operate in the strategically important region, which borders Iran as well as Afghanistan.

Pakistan has launched several military offensives over the last decade against the Islamist militants who want to install their own harsh brand of religion. Although beaten and dispersed, the militants have shown resilience to launch spectacular attacks.

Earlier this month, three Taliban suicide bombers attacked an agriculture college in northwestern Peshawar city, killing eight students and a guard.

Additional reporting by agencies

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