Mar 15, 2015 5:59 AM

Suicide bombers kill 14 people outside Pakistani churches

The Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) Suicide bombers exploded themselves near two churches in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday as worshippers were gathered inside, killing 14 people, officials said, in the latest attack against religious minorities in the country.

In the tense aftermath, angry mobs burned to death one person they believed was involved in the attack and tried to lynch another, said Haider Ashraf, deputy inspector general for Lahore. Two police who were protecting the churches were also killed in the explosions, which he said were caused by suicide bombers.

At least 70 people were wounded, said Zahid Pervez, the provincial director general of health, who gave the death toll.

The explosions occurred in quick succession in the Christian neighborhood of Youhana Abad at two churches while parishioners were celebrating Sunday services inside. The churches are about 600 meters (650 yards) apart.

A spokesman for a Pakistani Taliban faction claimed responsibility, saying it was the work of two suicide bombers.

One unidentified witness told Pakistan's Geo television that the main gate to one of the churches targeted was closed so people were using a smaller gate.

"One bomber exploded himself near that gate, that created chaos and during the course there was another blast," he said.

In the aftermath of the blasts the mood quickly turned violent. Much of the country is on edge after years of militant violence including an attack on a Peshawar school in December that killed 150 people mostly students.

Local television footage showed an angry crowd beating a person they thought was connected to the attack, while others attacked buses in the city.

Militants appear to be targeting minorities more intensively recently, including attacks on a string of mosques belonging to members of the Shiite Muslim minority sect. In 2013, twin blasts at a church in Peshawar killed 85 people.

"There will be more of such attacks," warned Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Taliban faction, in a statement emailed to reporters.

Life in Pakistan can be fraught with danger for religious minorities, especially Christians. They have been targeted by extremist Sunni Muslim militants who object to their faith and see them as being closely aligned with the West. They are also often discriminated against in the wider society.


Khan reported from Islamabad.


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