Death toll from Pakistan church bomb rises to 81
By by S. H. Khan, AFPThe death toll from a double suicide bombing on a church in Pakistan rose to 81 Monday, as Christians protested across the country to demand better protection for their community.
September 23, 2013, 2:00 pm TWN
The attack on All Saints church in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a service on Sunday, claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, is believed to be the deadliest ever to target Pakistan's small Christian minority.
Doctor Arshad Javed of the city's main Lady Reading hospital told AFP the death toll had risen to 81 overnight, including 37 women. A total of 131 people were wounded.
Christians demonstrated in cities around Pakistan, including Karachi and Faisalabad, to protest against the violence and demand better protection from the authorities.
In Islamabad more than 100 protesters blocked a major city highway for several hours during the Monday morning rush hour, causing long tailbacks, an AFP reporter said.
Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement claimed responsibility, saying it had set up a new faction, Junood ul-Hifsa, to kill foreigners to avenge US drone strikes on Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in the country's tribal areas along the Afghan border.
"We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop," Ahmad Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told AFP by telephone.
In June, the group claimed responsibility for killing 10 foreign climbers at a base camp of Nanga Parbat, the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K-2.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the "cruel" attack, saying it violated the tenets of Islam.
Pope Francis also spoke out against the violence, calling it "a bad choice of hatred and war", while Pakistan's Ulema Council, an association of leading Muslim scholars, branded the attack "shameful".
Former minister for inter-faith harmony Paul Bhatti and provincial lawmaker Fredrich Azeem Ghauri both said the attack was the deadliest ever targeting Christians in Pakistan.
The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation but bombings against them are extremely rare.
A Pakistani Christian carries an injured woman on her arrival at the hospital after two suicide bomb attacks on a Church in Peshawar on September 22. Two suicide bombers killed at ...