Twin Suicide Bombers Attack Church in Pakistan’s Quetta Ahead of Christmas, Killing Eight

December 17, 2017 Updated: December 17, 2017    

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD—Two suicide bombers attacked a packed Methodist church in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least eight people and wounding up to 45 before one of them blew himself up and police killed the other, officials said.

The gunmen wearing explosives-filled vests stormed the church in Quetta city when Sunday services had just opened, exploding a suicide vest and shooting at the Christian worshippers, said Sarfraz Bugti, the home minister of Baluchistan province.

Army vehicles and ambulances gather outside the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church after an attack by gunmen, in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

Police guards at the church exchanged fire with the attackers before they could enter the main sanctuary, said provincial police chief Moazzam Jah. He said two women were among those killed.

“There were nearly 400 people inside the church, but the attackers couldn’t get inside the services,” Jah said. “We killed one of them, and the other one exploded himself after police wounded him,” he said.

A man and a woman react as they run out after gunmen attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

Jah said the venue—Bethel Memorial Methodist Church—was on high alert as Christian places of worship were often targeted by Islamist extremist over Christmas.

Another police official, Abdur Razaq Cheema, said two attackers escaped from the scene.

No one has claimed responsibility.

A policeman takes position after gunmen attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

Baluchistan has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting against the state to demand more of a share of the gas- and mineral-rich region’s resources. They also accuse the central government of discrimination.

The Taliban, Sunni Islamist terrorists and sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the ISIS terrorist group also operate in the strategically important region, which borders Iran as well as Afghanistan.

Plain-clothed security officers help an injured man after gunmen attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

The violence has fueled concern about security for projects in the $57 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar.

Pakistan has launched several military offensives over the last decade against the Islamist terrorists who want to install their own harsh brand of religion.

A policeman guides a family after after gunmen attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan December 17, 2017. (Reuters/Naseer Ahmed)

Although beaten and dispersed, the terrorists have shown resilience to launch spectacular attacks. Early this month, three Taliban suicide bombers attacked an agriculture college in northwestern Peshawar city, killing eight students and a guard.

By Gul Yousafzai and Asif Shahzad

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