QUETTA, Pakistan — Two suicide bombers attacked a church in the southwestern city of Quetta on Sunday, killing five people and wounding 18 others, officials said.
Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Baluchistan province, said hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church ahead of Christmas. He said the attackers clashed with security forces, with one assailant killed at the entrance while the other made it inside.
Baluchistan police chief Moazzam Ansari confirmed the death toll. He praised the response of security forces guarding the church, saying the attacker who made it inside was wounded and unable to reach the main building. “Otherwise the loss of lives could have been much higher,” he told reporters.
Quetta police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said a search is underway for two suspected accomplices who escaped.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Muslim extremists have targeted Pakistan’s Christian minority in the past.
Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene while women and children were being led out of the church’s main gate.
Hospitals officials said two women were among the dead while another five women and two children were among the wounded.
A young girl in a white dress sobbed as she recounted the attack to Geo television, saying many people around her were wounded.
Aqil Anjum, who was shot in his right arm, told The Associated Press he heard a blast in the middle of the service, followed by heavy gunfire. “It was chaos. Bullets were hitting people inside the closed hall.”
Dozens of Christians gathered outside a nearby hospital to protest the lack of security.
Pakistan’s president and other senior officials condemned the attack.
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The Associated Press