(ADDS MORE DETAILS AND ROBBERY OF CHURCH)
By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Bombings rocked two churches in a Christian area of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, killing 10 people and injuring dozens, several reports and officials said. Islamic militants linked to Pakistan’s Taliban group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts in the Youhanabad neighbourhood.
In a statement the ‘Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jammatul Ahrar’ group reportedly said Sunday’s suicide blasts in the Catholic church and Protestant ‘Christ Church’ was targeting “real enemies.
The bombers were said to have detonated their explosives at the gates of the churches just minutes after each other.
“I was sitting at a shop near the church when a blast jolted the area. I rushed towards the spot and saw the security guard scuffle with a man who was trying to enter the church, after failing, he blew himself up,” witness Amir Masih told media. “I saw his body parts flying through the air.”
Local media claimed an angry mob lynched and burned two other suspects linked to the blasts to death. There was no immediate independent confirmation.
Soon after the attacks scores of people were seen protesting against the government for not providing enough security. Youhanabad is known as the country’s biggest Christian locality, housing at least one million people.
Pakistan’s Christian minority has long been the target of Islamic attacks. In one of the most bloodiest recent attacks in 2013, twin suicide attacks were carried out at the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area, killing 80 and wounding over 100 others.
Sunday’s attacks in Lahore came roughly two years after angry Muslims torched as many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches in the city’s Joseph Colony, another Christian area.
The attacks came just days after robbers entered the Our Lady of Queen of Angels Church in the nearby city of Kasus where they briefly held church staff hostage, said Sardar Mushtaq Gill, national director of advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
They looted church items worth two million Pakistani Rupees ($20,000) as well as mobile phones, camera’s, silver and 11,000 euros ($11,500) in cash, Gill told BosNewsLife.
The robbery on Thursday, March 12, happened while Belgian missionary Leopold Evans,
who served as the parish priest for 26 years, was hospitalized for a potentially life-threatening illness, Gill added.
Gill, a vocal rights lawyer, has assisted the church in pressuring police to detain suspects.
“We have started the investigation and soon we will be able to arrest the culprits”, police reportedly said.
Evans reportedly said he had had forgiven the attackers.
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