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Lahore church toll rises to 14

LAHORE: Fourteen people were killed and more than 70 injured when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked churches in Lahore on Sunday, sparking mob violence in which two other suspected militants died.

The bombings occurred during prayers at two churches located around half a kilometre apart in the city’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, which is home to more than 100,000 Christians, officials said.

Up to 4,000 then took to the streets of the eastern city, many armed with clubs, smashing vehicles and attacking a city bus station in a rare show of anger by the beleaguered minority.

Doctor Mohammad Saeed Sohbin, medical superintendent of the General Hospital, told AFP: “We have received 14 dead bodies and 70 injured,” adding that the figure did not include the suspected militants who were lynched as the bombers.

Zahid Pervez, the top health official in Lahore, confirmed the death toll and told reporters that 78 people were wounded in both attacks, which left blood and shoes scattered across the blast sites.

Sunday’s attack is the worst in over a year against Pakistan’s Christians, who make up a tiny proportion of the mainly Muslim country.

Eyewitness Jacob David said people jumped out of the church window to save their lives.

“These were huge blasts, one after another. Everyone started running here and there, some people jumped outside after breaking the window,” the 55-year-old told AFP.

Police spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar said two policemen guarding the churches were among those killed in the attacks, while two people were beaten to death by protesters who took to the streets after the blasts.

“Policemen on duty at both the entrances tried to stop them but the bombers blew themselves up,” she told AFP.

“The angry mob protesting after the blast beat to death two people whom they suspected of being associates of the attackers.”

An AFP photographer saw the bodies of the two suspected militants on fire after the beatings. It was not clear whether they were still alive at the time.

The Pakistani Taliban’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction described the blasts as suicide attacks and vowed to continue their campaign for the enforcement of Sharia Islamic law, in a statement emailed to the media.

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