Eight people are dead and 33 others wounded after an attack on a church in Quetta, Pakistan. Worshippers were gathered at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church for a midday service on Sunday, December 17, 2017 when the attack occurred.
At least two people were involved in carrying out the attack, which was two-pronged. A suicide bomber detonated his device at the gate of the church. A second attacker fired upon the worshippers. Security forces were able to prevent the gunman from entering the sanctuary and eventually killed him, stopping the gunfire.
“People were fleeing to the corners [of the church]. I couldn’t understand what was happening; it happened so suddenly,” a woman who was inside the church, and wished to remain anonymous, told reporters.
The provincial police chief, Moazzam Jah, said “there were nearly 400 people inside the church.” Jah says had the police guards not been able to prevent the second attackers from entering the sanctuary, the death toll would have been much higher. He praised his guards for their quick action. Security guards were in place at the church due to the increased attendance they are expecting in the Christmas season.
Two accomplices to the attack escaped, and police are currently searching for them. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attacks on Twitter: “Attack of terrorists on Zarghoon road church in Quetta is condemned. Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts,” the statement reads. Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, has also condemned the attack.
The southwestern area of Pakistan where the attack occurred has seen many terrorist attacks due to the natural resources present in the region and its proximity to Iran and Afghanistan. The Taliban, Sunni Islamist militants, al-Qaeda- and Isis-affiliated groups have been known to operate in the region.
As we enter the Christmas season, more worshippers will be drawn to churches to celebrate. However, the increase in attendance also heightens the security risks. Attacks on churches during high-attendance times are all too familiar. Please pray for our brothers and sisters as they worship this season.