ISIS strikes Quetta church a week before Christmas

By Abdul Ghani Kakar

ISIS suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Methodist Memorial Church in Quetta December 17, killing at least nine worshipers and wounding dozens of others. The CCTV footage shows the attackers. [Courtesy of Abdul Ghani Kakar]

QUETTA -- Pakistani officials are searching for two potential suspects who might have fled after carrying out a deadly terrorist attack on a church on Quetta's Zarghoon Road.

The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Sunday (December 17) attack on Bethel Methodist Memorial Church.

Nine people were killed and 44 others wounded, Dr. Waseem Ahmed, spokesperson for the Civil Hospital in Quetta, told Pakistan Forward.

The dead reportedly included two women.

Investigators collect evidence at a church in Quetta, Pakistan, the day after a suicide bombing claimed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) killed at least nine people and wounded 44 during a service, just over a week before Christmas. [Syed Ali/AFPTV/AFP]


An investigator collects evidence December 18, a day after an ISIS suicide attack on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta. [Banaras Khan/AFP]


A policeman December 18 stands guard on the roof of Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, a day after an ISIS suicide bombing that targeted the church. [Banaras Khan/AFP]


Rescue workers transport a wounded survivor of the December 17 church suicide bombing in Quetta. At least nine people were killed and 44 injured in the attack, according to officials. [Abdul Ghani Kakar]


Pakistani security forces cordon off the scene of an attack claimed by ISIS on Quetta's Bethel Methodist Memorial Church on December 17. [Abdul Ghani Kakar]

"More than 400 worshipers were attending services ... when two suicide bombers stormed the church," Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfraz Bugti told Pakistan Forward.

Security forces killed the first attacker before he reached the church's main gate.

"The second suicide bomber, who was injured in an exchange of fire, detonated himself at the [gate] of the church," Bugti said.

Hours after the attack, reports surfaced that four attackers might have been involved, with two having escaped.

Quetta Deputy Inspector General of Police Abdul Razzaq Cheema said investigators were analysing CCTV footage to check the claim and had launched a search for any further suspects, AFP reported.

"We are utilising all available resources to arrest the fleeing suspects," Balochistan Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said at the scene.

A 'cowardly attack' against worshipers

Radical extremists will never succeed in their anti-peace agenda, vowed Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri.

"We are in a state of war, and the militants are seeking soft targets for their nefarious designs," he said in a press statement.

The worshipers included Liaqat Masih, 25.

"Bullets were hitting worshipers inside the closed hall of the church," he told Pakistan Forward.

The injured, second suicide attacker tried in vain "to blow himself up in the middle of worshipers", he added, crediting troops with thwarting that intention.

"We lost several of our fellow worshipers in this cowardly attack," Anosha Barkat, another member of the congregation in her mid-30s, told Pakistan Forward.

"During the exchange of gunfire, when some security personnel were engaging the militants, others rescued us," she said.

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