By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in Pakistan remained on high alert Friday, May 13, as at least 80 people were killed and 120 others injured in two bomb blasts that militants said were to avenge the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistani Taliban, a close ally of the late bin Laden's al-Qaida group, said it carried out the attack at a training center for local security forces in the country’s northwest.
Local police said two suicide bombers used at least one motorcycle packed with explosives in an early morning attack in the town of Charsadda.
The bombers detonated outside a regional base for Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary, a security force that receives U.S. funds to combat extremists near the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Friday's blasts came shortly after minority Christians in Pakistan said they were bracing for possible attacks after U.S. forces killed long sought-after terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in one of the country's northern cities.
It was not clear how many Christians were among the dead. Men were seen grieving after hearing news that a family member had died. Bloodied people were put on vehicles and rushed to hospital. "The situation is tense," said Paul Bhatti, Pakistan's religious minorities adviser in published remarks before Friday's blasts.
“There are, in fact, strong reactions of unreasonable fear against Christian minorities. The government is paying close attention to preventive measures."
CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS CLOSED
Catholic news agency Fides news said schools and Christian institutions in the country have been closed – and local churches guarded with high security measures. Some were later opened, but Christians remained concerned about growing religious tensions in this predominantly Islamic nation.
The security measures were introduced after American special forces raided the summer residence of Osama bin Laden on May 1 in the city of Abbottabad, around 60 kilometers (41 miles) from the capital Islamabad, killing the al-Qaeda leader.
Bin Laden is viewed as the instigator of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 that left nearly 3,000 Americans dead. "The Pakistan administration must beef up security of Churches, Christian institutions, Christian colonies and life of common Christian after death of Osama Bin Laden” said Nazir S. Bhatti, who leads the Christian political party Pakistan Christian Congress.
Even before Friday's blasts Christians were targeted by Islamic militants, including the country's only Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in March after publicly challenging the country's blasphemy laws.
In a press release, the United States Embassy in Islamabad condemned the attack and said it respects Pakistani sacrifices, saying that the United States will continue to stand with Pakistan in the fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.
Defense officials officials from the Pakistani cabinet were meeting Friday, May 13, with Parliamentary members to discuss establishing a new defense strategy following the political fallout from the killing of bin Laden, the Voice of America network reported. (With reporting from Pakistan and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).