NEWS ALERT: Pakistan Muslim Militants Attack Christian Villagers; Three Injured, One Missing

women and children, and threw hand grenades at the local church during a worship service, investigators said.

Three Christians were seriously injured, and one was still missing Friday, August 18 following Saturday's and previous violence, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights group. 

August 12, "around 35 Muslim militants burned buildings, desecrated Bibles and beat up Christians, including women and children," said CSW citing a report by the Catholic Church's National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan.

"At 10pm [local time] on August 12, Yaqoob Mehr, a local Muslim landlord, threw hand grenades at the Apostolic Church chapel in Mominpura Thiaki, a village near Sharaqpur Sharif, in the Sheikhupura district, 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Lahore," CSW told BosNewsLife.

"Part of the chapel was demolished by the explosion, three adjacent houses were destroyed and one house was set on fire, according to eyewitness accounts," it added.

ANGRY MEN

Yaqoob Mehr was reportedly accompanied by a mob of about 35 men, including what CSW described as "notorious criminals" from the nearby village of Raajian Araaian. "Most of the local Christians were attending a special prayer service at the Presbyterian Church that evening," CSW said.

The group stressed that the attack followed a previous incident August 7, when a militant, identified as Yaqoob Mehr, allegedly attacked the village at 11am, accompanied by four armed men.

"Three Christians were injured in that attack. Yaqoob Mehr has been trying to grab the land occupied by Christian families, who moved to the area in 1988 after floods washed away their previous village."

CHRISTIAN FAMILIES

In published statements, the National Commission for Justice and Peace said that Mominpura Thiaki village consists of 65 Christian families and ten Muslim families. Muslim villagers reportedly tried to help the Christians, and provided some with shelter in their homes.

The attackers have not been arrested, "although a case has been registered with the police," CSW added. "Some of them had been given temporary bail on August 12 after the first attack, but returned to the village within a few hours to attack again. Five policemen have been sent to the village to provide protection," the group explained.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that the violence was "another example of the mistreatment of religious minorities in Pakistan. They are constantly subjected to a cocktail of discrimination, abuse, land grabbing and violence by extremists and corrupt landlords." Thomas said CSW had urged the Pakistani authorities "to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice, and to provide better protection for Christians and other religious minorities." (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Pakistan).

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