Pakistan: Quetta church hit in suicide attack

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Islamabad – A suicide attack on a church in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least eight people, hospital officials say.

A second attacker fired upon worshippers during a midday service on Sunday, prompting a police operation in the area, officials told Al Jazeera.

Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said the second attacker was initially wounded by security forces and has now been killed.

He confirmed that the first attacker blew himself up at the gate to the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, while the second was wounded in an exchange of fire near the gate as well.

“We have cleared the immediate area around the church, and we are now clearing a peripheral area further out,” Ansari said, speaking to the media at the site of the attack.

Witnesses reported a heavy exchange of gunfire in the neighbourhood as police worked to clear the area.

“People were fleeing to the corners [of the church]. I couldn’t understand what was happening, it happened so suddenly,” said a woman who was at the church when the attack occurred, on condition of anonymity.

Waseem Ahmed, a hospital official at the nearby Civil Hospital, said 33 people were wounded in the attack.

More than 200 people were gathered at the church for the service at the time of the attack.

Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, has been at the centre of recent violence in Pakistan, and often comes under attack both from armed groups allied with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and separatist groups.

Last month, a suicide attack targeting paramilitary soldiers killed at least four people and wounded 15 others.

Earlier that month, a senior police official was also killed in a similar attack, while in October at least seven police officials were killed in another roadside bombing.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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