Suicide bombers kill nine at Christian church in Pakistan

Two suicide bombers have attacked a church in the Pakistani city of Quetta, killing nine people and wounding more than 50.

Sarfraz Bugti, the home minister for the south-western Baluchistan province, said hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church before Christmas. He said the attackers clashed with security forces, with one assailant killed at the entrance while the other made it inside.

The Baluchistan police chief, Moazzam 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 said.

The Quetta police chief, Abdur Razzaq Cheema, said a search was under way for two suspected accomplices who escaped.The ISIS group later claimed responsibility for the attack on their Aamaq news agency, saying two “plungers” from their group had stormed the church, without providing further details.

It was the first time ISIS has claimed an attack on a church in Pakistan, though Muslim extremists have claimed church attacks in the past. The deadliest example was in September 2013, when twin suicide bomb blasts killed 85 people in a Peshawar church. In March 2015, two suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 15 people.

Fifty-seven people were wounded in the latest attack, including seven who were listed in critical condition, according to Wasim Baig, a spokesman for Quetta’s main hospital.

A young girl in a white dress sobbed as she recounted the attack to Geo television, saying many people around her were wounded.

Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, told The Associated Press 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,” he said.

Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest the lack of security. Pakistan’s president and other senior officials condemned the attack.

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