Twin bombings at churches in Lahore kill 14, wound 78; Jamatul Ahrar claims responsibility
LAHORE: Two bombs outside Saint John Catholic Church and Christ Church in Youhanabad area – the country’s biggest Christian locality – claimed 15 lives and injured 78 people during Sunday services, 92 News reported.
Police said the two targeted churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, were very close to each other. After the blasts, enraged residents caught hold of two suspects from around the vicinity and lynched them, police said. The blasts went off minutes apart in a majority Christian suburb of the city. As per the witnesses, the two were involved in the attack.
“I was sitting at a shop near the church when a blast jolted the area. I rushed towards the spot and saw the security guard scuffle with a man who was trying to enter the church, after failing, he blew himself up,” said witness Amir Masih. The guard died as well, he said. According to sources, unknown miscreants opened fire near the other Church, followed by a blast.
Following the attack, the police cordoned-off the entire area and the injured were shifted to Lahore General Hospital. Punjab General Health Director Zahid Pervaiz said that twelve of those injured are in critical condition. A large number of people gathered at the hospital following the blasts. Rescue 1122 spokesperson Sajjad hussain said the rescue operation is still underway and feared that the death toll may increase.
Meanwhile, demonstrations outside the hospital turned violent with the mob beating up and lynching two “suspects” in public and damaging Metro Bus infrastructure. Slogans were chanted against the Punjab government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The enraged protesters called for proper security arrangement for the Christian community and accountability of those who committed the heinous acts.
A Taliban splinter group Jamatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the twin blasts.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and leaders of all political parties condemned the blasts , terming them an attack on Pakistan, and not the Christian community only.
Protest demonstrations were witnessed across the country including Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Sargodha, Nankana Sahib, Qasur, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafiz Abad, Peshawar and Quetta.
Enraged protestors also burnt tyres and broke window panes of cars in several cities.
Lahore is the political heartland of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and is generally considered peaceful compared with many other areas of Pakistan. The Christian community – along with other minority groups, and the Sunni population- in Pakistan has long been the target of attacks and hate crimes carried out by extremist elements. In 2013, twin suicide attacks were carried out at the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area, killing 80 and wounding over 100 others. – 92 News/Reuters