QUETTA: At least nine people including three women were killed while 43 others injured when two gunmen wearing explosives-filled vests attacked Bethel Memorial Methodist Church located on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road on Sunday afternoon.
Sources at Civil Hospital Quetta said four dead bodies and around 40 injured were brought to the medical facility. Four of the injured succumbed to their injuries during treatment, they said and expressed fears the death toll might increase as many of the injured are in precarious condition.
Talking to ARY News, Home Minister Balochistan Sarfaraz said as per initial reports two suicide attackers stormed the church when Sunday service was ongoing, one of them detonated his charge inside the church while the other was shot dead by security personnel at the entrance to the church.
The provincial police chief confirmed two suicide bombers attacked the church when Sunday service was ongoing.
He said security personnel deployed at the church shot and killed one of the attackers, while another exploded his explosive-filled vest after being wounded at the main gate of the church.
There were about 400 worshipers inside the church, but security forces’ timely response averted more casualties, he added.
A heavy contingent of security forces arrived at the site of the explosion and cordoned it off.
A state of emergency was declared at medical facilities of the city following the terrorist attack.
No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Condemnations pour in
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Quetta, saying the attack on church is tragic and cowardly.
Governor Balochistan Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri also strongly condemned the attack.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said, “Quetta church attack targeting our brotherly Christian Pakistanis is an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations and create religious cleavages.”
He commended the swift response of security forces, saying “Effective response by LEAs [law enforcement agencies] is commendable. We stay united and steadfast to respond against such heinous attempts.”
Foreign office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said: “Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts.”
In a tweet, PTI chief Imran Khan condemned the incident and demanded that the government must ensure proper security for churches as Christmas is approaching.
On Nov 19, Additional Inspector General (AIG) Telecommunications Hamid Shakeel Durrani and two other policemen were martyred in a suicide attack near Chaman Housing Scheme on Airport Road of the provincial capital Quetta.
Taliban and other Islamist militants also operate in the province, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. A U.S. drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour last year in Baluchistan.
The province was rocked by a series of attacks late last year that claimed over 180 lives and raised concerns about a growing militant presence, including fighters affiliated with Islamic State, which has claimed several bombings in Baluchistan.