Christians denounce bombings at Pakistan church as death toll hits 81
Updated: 2013-09-24 07:17
By Agencies in Peshawar, Pakistan (China Daily)
Angry Pakistani Christians on Monday denounced the deadliest attack against members of their faith in the country, as the death toll from bombings at a church climbed overnight to 81.
A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers outside a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday.
The attack on the All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar, which also wounded more than 140 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn.
A wing of the Pakistani Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they would continue to target non-Muslims until the US stops drone attacks in the remote tribal region.
The new Taliban faction, Junood ul-Hifsa, also said they would avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in the country's tribal areas along the Afghan border.
"We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop," Ahmad Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told AFP by telephone.
In June, the group claimed responsibility for killing 10 foreign climbers at a base camp of Nanga Parbat, the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K-2.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the "cruel" attack, saying it violated the tenets of Islam.
Former minister for interfaith harmony Paul Bhatti and provincial lawmaker Fredrich Azeem Ghauri both said the attack was the deadliest to target Christians in Pakistan.
The bombings also raised new questions about the Pakistani government's push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.
The death toll rose to 81 on Monday, after three more of the wounded in Peshawar died overnight, according to police official Noor Khan.
Angry Christians blocked roads around the country to protest the bombings. On one of the main roads coming into the capital of Islamabad, demonstrators burned tires and demanded government protection for the members of the Christian minority.
In Islamabad, more than 100 protesters blocked a major city highway for several hours during the Monday morning rush hour, causing long queues.
Missionary schools around the country would be closed for three days, said Christian leader Nasir Gill.
A woman mourns next to the coffin of her brother, who was killed in a suicide attack on a church, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Sunday. Fayaz Aziz / Reuters
(China Daily 09/24/2013 page12)