78 killed, over 100 injured in Peshawar church attack

Two suicide bombers with 12 kilogrammes of explosive material attacked the church after Sunday mass.

Afp/Web Desk September 22, 2013
The attack on the church claimed the lives of women and children as well. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: A twin suicide bombing killed at least 78 people at a church service in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, officials said, in what is believed to be the country's deadliest attack on Christians. No one claimed responsibility for the incident.

The two attackers struck at the end of a service at All Saints Church in  Peshawar, the main town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which has borne the brunt of a bloody Islamist insurgency in recent years.

Sahibzada Anees, one of Peshawar's most senior officials, told reporters the bombers struck when the service had just ended.

"Most of the wounded are in critical condition," Anees said.

"We are in an area which is a target of terrorism and within that area there was a special security arrangement for the church. We are in a rescue phase and once it is over we will investigate what went wrong."

Former minister for inter-faith harmony Paul Bhatti and provincial lawmaker Fredrich Azeem Ghauri both said the attack was the deadliest ever targeting Christians in Pakistan.

The K-P government announced Rs500,000 in compensation to the families of victims in the attack.

The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in overwhelmingly Muslim-majority Pakistan but bombings against them are extremely rare.

Schoolteacher Nazir Khan, 50, said the service had just ended and at least 400 worshippers were greeting each other when there was a huge explosion.

"A huge blast threw me on the floor and as soon as I regained my senses, a second blast took place and I saw wounded people everywhere," Khan told AFP.

An AFP reporter saw shreds of human flesh and bloodstains on the walls and floor of the church, whose windows had been ripped apart by the blast.

Pages of a Bible were scattered near the altar and rice meals mingled with dust on the floor amid shattered benches. Walls were gouged with ball bearings used in the explosives, he said.

Grieving relatives blocked the main Grand Trunk Road highway with bodies of the victims to protest against the killings, an AFP reporter said.

Christians in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and other cities also staged protest rallies to condemn the killings and demand state protection for their lives and properties, AFP reporters said.

In the southern port city of Karachi angry protesters clashed with police when they tried to clear a road in Isa Nagri, a low-income Christian neighbourhood.

Pakistan's Ulema Council, an  association of leading Muslim scholars, strongly condemned the church attack and said killing innocent people violates the tenets of Islam.

"It is an extremely shameful attack  which has shamed all Pakistanis and Muslims," Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, chief of the council, told AFP.

"There is no room for such terrorist acts in Islam."

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims is  on the rise in Pakistan. Sunday's attack will fuel fears the already beleaguered Christian community could be increasingly targeted.

Militants have carried out  hundreds of bombings targeting security forces and minority Muslim groups they regard as heretical, but attacks on Christians have previously largely been confined to grenade attacks and occasional riots.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a deeply  conservative province bordering the  tribal districts along the Afghan frontier which are home to Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Provincial lawmaker Ghauri said there  were about 200,000 Christians in the province, of whom 70,000 lived in Peshawar.

"Now after this attack Christians across Pakistan will fear for their lives," he warned.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the bombings.

"Terrorists have no religion and  targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions," he said in a statement.

Sharif said such "cruel acts of  terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists".

Only around two percent of Pakistan's population of 180 million are Christian. The community complains of growing discrimination.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has warned that the risk to Pakistan's minorities has reached crisis levels.

Christians have a precarious existence in Pakistan, often living in slum-like "colonies" cheek-by-jowl with Muslims and fearful of allegations of blasphemy, a sensitive subject that can provoke outbursts of public violence.

In the town of Gojra in Punjab province in 2009, a mob burned 77 houses and killed seven people after rumours that a copy of the Islamic holy book the Koran had been desecrated during a Christian marriage ceremony.

Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who was arrested for alleged blasphemy last year, fled to Canada with her family in June after the charges were dropped.

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3:46pm

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the Peshawar blast. Christian representatives will be invited to attend the meeting, according to the Punjab law minister.

The blasts are being protested in Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad.

multan protest

Screengrab of protestors in Multan.

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3:39pm

High alert in Punjab after the Peshawar incident, says Rana Sanaullah.

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3:29pm

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that patients should be shifted to other cities via helicopters.

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3:19pm

Due to protests in Karachi, roads are jammed with traffic in Hassan Square, Gareebabad, University Road and Civic Center area.

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3:14pm

The bodies of the deceased are being sent to All Saints church and collected there. Arrangements for their burial will be made tomorrow.

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3:13pm

Due to a lack of stretchers at Lady Reading Hospital, some of the injured were transferred to other hospitals.

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2:57pm

The Peshawar Municipal Corporation has also announced 3 days of mourning.

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2:49pm

The Dean of Cathedral announced that the Christian educational institutes will remain closed for three day across the country.

Political parties such as ANP, MQM and JUI-F have also announced three days of mourning.

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2:44pm

Members of the Christian community have gathered in Karachi’s Essa Nagri area, protesting against the blasts in Peshawar.

The agitators have reportedly pelted stones at many vehicles.

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2:34pm

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2:31pm

Condemnations and criticism continue to pour in as injured are treated at the hospital.





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2:24pm



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2:21pm

As the death toll continues to rise, MQM leader Faisal Subzwari criticised the government for its emphasis on peace talks.


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Worshippers gathered outside the church after the blasts. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL
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2:15pm

PTI MNA Asad Umar said Imran Khan has also left Islamabad for Peshawar to be with the victims of the blasts.


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Worried relatives of the blast victims. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

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2:07pm

While condemning the act, JI chief Munawar Hasan said Islam teaches its followers to protect the minorities.


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The outside of the church. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL 

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2:01pm

Political leaders and celebrities condemned the attacks in the strongest terms and offered prayers for the victims.


https://twitter.com/AisamulhaqQ/status/381696953920552960

https://twitter.com/sharmeenochinoy/status/381698922894618624


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2:00pm



A relative of one of the blast victims. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

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1:55pm

The hospital authorities said that most of the injured are in critical condition.



An injured taken to the hospital. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL

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1:50pm

President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, PTI chairman Imran Khan, JI chief Munawar Hasan and ANP chief Asfandyar Wali condemned this act of terrorism.

1:45pm

Spokesperson for K-P CM Shiraz Paracha told Express News that Pervez Khattak has ordered health department to provide best of the facilities to the victims.

He further said that the government will take action against those involved in negligence while responding to the blasts.

Provincial government has also ordered an inquiry into the suicide attack.

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1:40pm

Commissioner Peshawar said around 600 to 700 people were present inside the church at the time of the blast.

Condemning the attacks, former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman called on the government to immediately announce an end to peace talks.


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1:37pm

PTI chairman Imran Khan has advised K-P chief minister Pervez Khattak to immediately reach Peshawar and personally oversee the rehabilitation work.

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1:35pm

Injured have been shifted into wards in the Lady Reading Hospital and provided with basic medical care.

Former information minister Iftikhar Hussain visited the hospital and condemned the attack.

He said the provincial leadership should realise that the war against terrorists is Pakistan’s war.

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1:30pm

Provincial information minister said the PTI leadership – present in Islamabad for a party meeting – is now returning to Peshawar.



A screengrab showing injured being taken to a hospital. 

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1:25pm

Senior police officer Najeeb Bogvi told Reuters that the dead included two policemen and six women.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the twin suicide attacks in Peshawar:


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1:22pm 

Provincial health minister Shaukat Yousufzai strongly condemned the act and said that the perpetrators should not call themselves Muslims after committing such a heinous act.

He told Express News that the PTI leadership is present in Islamabad for a party meeting. He said he left the city as soon as he heard the news and is on his way to Peshawar now.

He said the government officials are constantly updating him about the situation.

Yousufzai assured that strict action will be taken against negligent officers.

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1:09pm

AIG Shafat Malik, while speaking to Express News, said the suicide jackets contained around 12 kilogrammes of explosive material.

He told the media that the suicide bombers' body parts have been sent to a forensic lab for analyses.

Malik requested that people should stay away from the crime scene to protect the evidence.

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1:03pm

Senior police officer in Peshawar said Najeeb Bogvi  told Reuters: "After the service ended, people started to come out and the suicide bomber rushed towards them."

Minhajul Quran International (MQI) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri tweeted, condemning the attacks.


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12:57pm

No government representative have reached the blast site and the hospital.

Expressing sorrow over the loss that occurred due to the blast, ANP Senator Zahid Khan criticised the government’s stance on managing the issue of terrorism.

He further said that the provincial leadership has not reached the blast site and is enjoying official luxuries in Islamabad.

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12:52pm

Between 300 to 350 people were inside the church at the time of the blast.

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12:46pm

The Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) has confirmed that were two suicide bombers.

The incidents occurred outside All Saint's church after the Sunday mass came to an end.

The injured have been transported to the Lady Reading Hospital by ambulances and private cars.

The deceased include six women and four children.

The hospital does not have the resources to deal with an emergency of this magnitude and senior doctors and nurses on their day off have been called into work.

BDS reached the blast site and the police have cordoned off the area.

Nearby buildings were also damaged due to the intensity of the blast.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

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COMMENTS (210)

Wilson John gill | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend

My daughter post me this news.The losses are un-bearable and un-remidial.Our hearts crying at this cowardnes, folishness and shameful action. may God give peace of heart and mind to bear all these.

After attack security is useless it is the folishness of Local adminstration.Every time needed to be alear of the watchmen and security.

We pray that may the Lord our God have murcy on Pakistan.

Bishop Wilson John gill

Zahiya | 6 years ago | Reply | Recommend

We'd understand "Terrorists" attacking on Mosques and Churches. They are not Muslim neither Human! Their ulterior objective is rift among Muslims! Beware!!!

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