Christians protest deadly attacks on churches in Pakistan
Islamabad: Hundreds of Christians took to the streets in several cities on Monday in Pakistan to protest against the killing of 15 people in Taliban suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore, the cultural capital of the country.
In one of the worst attacks on the minority community in recent times, two Taliban attackers blew themselves up at the gates of Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church in Christian dominated Youhanabad area during Sunday mass, killing 15 people and injuring 80 others.
Christian community leader and federal minister for shipping Kamran Michael said that all Christian schools would remain closed as prayer services and funerals for the victims will get under way later today, Dawn reported.
Michael, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, appealed to fellow Christians to remain peaceful, a day after the angry mobs killed two men and burnt their bodies on suspicions of being linked with the bombers.
Police said that the protesters blocked roads in Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Gujranwala. There were also reports that protesters blocked a major highway that runs near the two attacked churches in Lahore. Dawn reported that approximately 100 protesters gathered at Faisalabad's Millat road where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw. The protesters also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway. Geo TV reported that protesters in Gujranwala ransacked a vehicle carrying soft drinks of an international company and protesters were shown drinking from the bottles.
After the attack on a metro bus in Lahore by protesters, the authorities changed the routes as people continued to protest in various parts of the provincial capital. Women were seen sitting in protest in Youhanaabad and offering prayers for the deceased led by a priest.
Police in Lahore on Monday registered two cases of the blasts, while senior officers were in consultation for the registration of a case over the lynching of two suspects.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and called it a cowardly act. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said government will not spare the militants involved in the blasts.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamatul Ahrar claims responsibility for the attacks on churches. 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.