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IS claims deadly suicide bombing of Pakistan church

More than eight people were killed when two suicide bombers attacked the church. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2017

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A suicide bomb attack on a Pakistan church claimed by IS killed at least eight people and wounded 30 during a Sunday service, just over a week before Christmas.
A suicide bomb attack targeting a Sunday service at a Pakistan church which left at least eight people dead has been claimed the Islamic State group.

Two women were among the dead at a Methodist church in the volatile south-western city of Quetta in Balochistan province, said provincial Home Secretary Akbar Harifal.

Among the 30 wounded, several are in a serious condition.

Security forces intercepted and shot one bomber outside, but the second attacker managed to reach the church's main door where he blew himself up.

"Police were quick to react and stop the attackers from entering into the main hall," provincial police chief Moazzam Jah told AFP

Around 250 people normally attend the church on Sundays, Balochistan provincial home minister Sarfraz Bugti said, but the congregation had swelled to more than 400 because it was close to Christmas.

"God forbid, if the terrorists had succeeded in their plans more than 400 precious lives would have been at stake," tweeted the home minister.

Each attacker was carrying 15 kilograms of explosive plus grenades, said civil defence official Aslam Tareen.

An AFP reporter at the scene saw shattered pews, shoes and broken musical instruments littered across the blood-smeared floor of the church.

IS - in a brief statement on its Amaq news agency - claimed responsibility. 

'Devastated'

Liaqat Masih, a member of the congregation, said he was heartbroken by the violence and feared for his life as the firefight erupted between one attacker and police, who were later reinforced by paramilitaries and regular troops.

"I am devastated to see many of our dear ones dead and wounded today here in front of me," said Masih, 35.

Hours after the attack reports surfaced that a total of four attackers had been involved, with two escaping. 

Following the latest attack, dozens of Christians protested in the north-western city of Peshawar and called on officials to protect religious minorities. 

Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan's 200 million people and have long faced discrimination.

They are marginalised working lowly paid jobs and sometimes the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges.

Along with other religious minorities, the community has also been targeted by Islamist militants over the years.

In 2016, a suicide bomb in a Lahore park killed more than 70 people - including many children - during the Easter season.

The bombing was later claimed by the Jamaat ul Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban.

Police and troops have been battling Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in mineral-rich Balochistan for more than a decade.  

Balochistan - bordering Iran and Afghanistan - is the largest of the country's four provinces but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long argued they do not get a fair share of its vast gas and mineral wealth.

The IS group has been making inroads in the country through alliances with local militant outfits, although its presence is generally downplayed by the government.

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