The attack, considered the deadliest ever against Christians in Pakistan, was carried out on the 130-year-old All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar where some 400 worshipers had just concluded the Sunday service. The Associated Press reported that a Pakistani wing of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that they would continue to target non-Muslims until the United States halted drone strikes in the region. The United States has reportedly carried out hundreds drone attacks in the region. The suicide attack took place in an area known as a center for terrorist activity, a Pakistani government official said. “[Christians] are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them,” Reuters quoted a spokesman for the Taliban group as saying. “We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”
The suicide bombers, strapped with bombs loaded with ball bearings, detonated themselves in the midst of worshippers leaving the church and making their way to the front lawn of the church property for a free meal of rice. Emergency personnel on the scene said the dead included 34 women and seven children, with another 37 children among the wounded. “This is the deadliest attack against Christians in our country,” said Irfan Jamil, a Christian leader based in the eastern city of Lahore.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John, one of the blast survivors. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood, and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
The white walls of the church, which dates from the late 1800s, were pockmarked with deep holes from the ball bearings that were expelled from the bomb packs. Blood stained the floor and the walls, and plates filled with rice were scattered across the church lawn. A police spokesman said the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers who detonated their explosives at the same moment.
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Photo of Pakistani Christian women mourning over the coffins of deceased loved ones after Monday's bombing: AP Images