By Xavier P. William, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- Suspected Islamic militants attacked a Pentecostal church in northwestern Pakistan killing a security guard and shooting at the building before leaving the scene, local officials and Christians told BosNewsLife Saturday, July 6.
The Assembly of God Church (AoG) in the Swati gate area of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pukhtunkhawa province, was reportedly attacked early Friday, July 5, amid heightened tensions over minorities in the region.
Christians said the two attackers tried to enter the building where pastors gathered for a refresher training course, but were stopped by the guard, a policeman, whose name was not immediately revealed.
He apparently died on the scene after the gunmen shot him three times in the neck, chest and near the heart. They also took his gun, fired at the AoG church building and fled the scene, according to police investigators.
Christians said the attack followed threats against the AoG, prompting local authorities to send initially two police officers to the church for security.
GIVING UP LIFE
Yet, there was only one policeman guarding the church during Friday's attack who "gave up his life in the line of duty," police said, adding that they are investigating the incident.
"We condemn the attack on the AoG Church," said Christian rights group Life for All Pakistan. "The security has been raised in other churches. We praise the guard who intercepted the attackers and saved other lives sacrificing his own," the group added n a statement to BosNewsLife.
The policeman was the latest casualty in what authorities call an ongoing "war against terror" in the province. There have been hundreds of terror attacks in the province, killing over 22000 people in the past five years, according to official estimates.
Friday's attack came amid heightened tensions after the province's Chief Minister Pervez Khattak of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party reportely said that that Muslims "cannot be hired as sweepers and cleaners" as these jobs should be done by minorities, including Christians.
Several minority groups expressed their outrage over what they called the leader's "narrow-mindlessness" and demanded his resignation.
Life for All Pakistan said the remarks "that only the minorities are fit for sweepers has hurt the sentiments of the minorities" clearly violates PTI's campaign pledges including "giving equal rights and opportunities to the religious minorities". However, "after coming into power they speak and do otherwise," the group said.
The PTI has also threatened to halt supplies of the NATO military alliance and to shoot down the drones, the unmanned aircraft used by the United States to target militants.
Islamic militants, who rights activists claiom have links to government offcials, often described Christianity as a "Western religion" and accused Christians of having ties to "Western occupiers."
(With editing by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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