All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan (Image credit: SkyscraperCity)
Twin explosions targeted Christians leaving a church service in Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 78 people including women and children and left over 120 wounded, many in critical condition.
While this is by far one of the bloodiest incidents in recent history, Christians in Pakistan are regularly targeted for their faith, with over 100 homes torched in March over alleged blasphemy.
In December, a report stated that 12 Pakistani Christians have been sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming Mohammed. The majority of the people charged under the ambiguous blasphemy law in Pakistan are Christians. Christians have been slaughtered for no apparent reason in the past.
The attack occurred in Peshawar, a city in the northern region of Pakistan, according to CBS News. TTP Jundullah, a militant group linked to the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the bombings within hours after the attack, Reuters reports.
Pakistani Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan told The New York Times that 34 women and seven children were among those killed and 37 children are among the wounded.
“Such an attack on women and children is against humanity,” Khan said.
The attack reportedly targeted a group of almost 600 people who were leaving a service at the 130-year-old Anglican All Saints Church on Sunday morning.
The large group of worshipers were waiting to receive free food which was being distributed on the lawn outside of the church.
“As soon as the service finished and the food was being distributed, all of a sudden we heard one explosion, followed by another,” Azim Ghori, a witness, said to the Times.
“I heard two explosions. People started to run. Human remains were strewn all over the church,” said a witness named Margrette, who would only give her first name, according to Reuters.
Reuters reports that Islamist violence has been increasingly common in Pakistan in recent months, undercutting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to launch peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
“Such incidents are not conducive of peace talks,” Sharif said in a televised statement. “Unfortunately, because of this, the government is unable to move forward on what it had envisaged, on what it had wished for.”
However, Sharif did not call for outright military action against the insurgents located mostly in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. Reuters reports that such an option is “supported by Pakistan’s all-powerful army.”
The Associated Press reports that this attack is “the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.”
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John, a witness who was at the church at the time of the attacks. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
The group that claimed responsibility for the attacks said they would continue to target non-Muslims until the United States ceased drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region, according to the Associated Press.
The most recent drone attack in the region was carried out on Sunday when missiles struck two compounds in the tribal area of North Waziristan, killing six suspected militants.
Pakistani government officials have announced a 3-day nation-wide mourning period, according to Pakistani news outlet The News International.
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