Two Taliban suicide bombers on Sunday blew themselves up in two packed churches during mass, killing 15 people and wounding 80 others in Pakistan’s biggest Christian neighbourhood in Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
The attackers blew themselves up at the gates of Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church in Youhanabad area during Sunday mass, causing stampede as panicked worshippers ran to save their lives.
At least 11 people, including policemen, were killed in the twin attacks claimed by Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamat-ul-Ahrar.
“The usual Sunday service was underway at the Christ Church and Catholic Church of Youhanabad Christian Colony when two suicide bombers reached there and tried to enter in the churches. However, when the guards stopped them from entering they blew them up,” Christian leader of the locality Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra told.
He said a large number of Christians were present in the churches when the incident took place.
“Fifty people have been wounded in the attacks,” Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 spokesman Jam Sajjad told. He said the rescue officials had shifted the wounded to nearby hospital and some five of them were stated to be critical.
Sajjad said it was suicide blasts and according to eyewitness the terrorists were stopped by the policemen and the local guards from entering the churches.
Soon after the attack, an enraged mob severely beat two suspects alleged to be involved in the attack. They later set them on fire. Their bodies were completely charred.
“We have taken two suspects believed to be the accomplices of the suicide bombers. The angry mob burnt the two terrorists after beating them. The suspects confessed that they were the accomplices of the suicide bombers and had come to monitor the operation,” eyewitness Sarfraz Emneual said.
Youhanabad is Pakistan’s biggest Christian locality, housing at least one million people and over 150 churches.
Deputy Inspector General Lahore Haider Ashraf also confirmed that both blasts were suicide attacks.
“Both attacks were suicide blasts. Police personnel were deployed at the gate of the Churches. Two policemen lost their lives in the blats,” Ashraf said.
The minority communities in Pakistan have long been the target of attacks by the extremist and militant groups.
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.
Christians took to streets after the incidents and blocked different roads in the city to lodge protest.