UPDATE: Suicide bomber targets two churches in Pakistan, 19 dead

Published March 15th, 2015 - 08:43 GMT

Thousands of angry Christians took to the streets across Pakistan after at least 19 people were killed and 70 injured in two blasts, one after the other, at two churches in the northeastern city of Lahore during Sunday service, police said. 

City police chief Haider Ashraf confirmed eyewitness reports that both blasts were the acts of suicide bombers.

The two suicide bombers first shot at the main gates of the churches and then blew themselves up.

"The suicide bomber first fired on the police and tried to move towards the prayer hall, but he blew himself up when police and security guards confronted him," Mushtaq Masih, who was injured in the explosion at Catholic Church, told local Dunya TV.

The Pakistani Taliban's Jamat ul Ahrar group claimed responsibility for the Lahore attacks. 

Ihsanulah Ihsan, the purported spokesman for Jamat ul Ahrar, warned the government, in an email sent to local media, of more terrorist attacks and challenged the security forces to "stop us if you can."

The group has recently rejoined the Pakistani Taliban coalition.

Furious reaction

Angry protesters blocked the roads in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and other cities. 

Police avoided using water cannons to disperse the crowds due to the presence of women and children in the crowds. 

The protesters locked four injured police officers in a shop, one of whom later died due to excessive bleeding, police said. 

Ignoring appeals from leaders of Pakistan's Christian community, the protesters threw stones at police, smashed vehicles and beat several ordinary citizens in a fit of anger in Lahore. 

All missionary schools across Pakistan will be closed on Monday in protest against the bombings.

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance has announced a three-day mourning period.

Christian mob kill suspects, burn bodies

The two churches were located on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. The first church to be bombed was Catholic Church and then minutes later, a church at Christ church school.

The state health minister, Salman Rafiq, confirmed that 13 Christians and two policemen had been killed in the blasts. He also confirmed that two suspected terrorists were beaten to death by enraged Christian mobs, bringing the death toll up to 19, including the deaths of the two suicide bombers.

Ambulances rushed to the scene and evacuated the injured to hospital. Doctors fear a rise in the death toll as many of the injured are in critical condition.

TV footage showed enraged mobs beating up the bearded suspects as police failed to protect them from the infuriated mob. 

After beating the suspects to death, they dragged their bodies onto the road and burned them. 

The twin blasts smashed the window panes of the nearby buildings and houses as pieces of human flesh, burned clothes, glasses, shoes and other belongings were strewn across the blast scene.

A state of emergency was imposed in all Lahore hospitals as rescue workers kept bringing in injured people. 

The blasts occurred in a suburban and low income district, Youhanabad, which is mainly inhabited by the country's small Christian community.

By Aamir Latif

© Copyright Andolu Ajansi

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