Nine killed in IS suicide bomb attack on church
Militants stormed a Methodist church in Pakistan last Sunday in the city of Quetta, some 65km (40 miles) from the Afghan border. The church was packed with worshippers at the time and the suicide bomb and gun attack killed at least nine people. Dozens of people were wounded in the attack, which took place during a Sunday service at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church.
Sarfraz Bugti, the Balochistan region’s home minister, said the two suicide bombers were stopped at the entrance to the church. One of the men detonated his bomb vest and the other was stopped in a gunfight with police. Two more attackers fled and a search operation is under way. A local witness said that several children attending Sunday school had taken shelter while firing continued around them.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistan’s Christian have frequently come under attack by militants and guards had been placed near the church in Quetta as a result. Had the attackers got any further, there could have been hundreds of casualties.
A spokesman for the foreign affairs ministry, Dr Mohammed Faisal, condemned the attack on Twitter, saying “Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts.”
Quetta was once called “Little Paris” due to its pleasant weather and abundant fruit orchards in its surrounding river valleys. Today it has become a sprawling shantytown with crowded roads, dirty streets and a continuing sense of foreboding. Attacks in the mainly Sunni Muslim region are not uncommon, often targeting the Hazara Shia Muslim community in suicide bombings though Christians have increasingly come under attack.
Quetta’s residents have become increasingly nervous following an exceptionally horrific attack on a city hospital in August in which more than 70 people were killed and the bombing of a police training college. Since August, Quetta’s journalists, lawyers and civil society have made very elaborate security arrangements for their gatherings.