Sunday, August 23, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 7

Muslim Extremist Attacks on Christian Villages,
Churches, Schools, Hospitals and Church Personnel

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi -- one of the churches targeted by Muslim extremists
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Bomb Blast Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, Karachi

1998 (December 23):
A Catholic woman was injured in a powerful home-made bomb blast inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi at the end of the Mass, when about 250 Catholics were still queing up for confession as a preparation for the coming Christmas on December 25.

The blast, under the 17th bench, destroyed six rows of benches and a number of fixures, including window panes. The explosion also left a 12-inch diameter and two-inch deep crater on teh cathedral floor. If the bomb had exploded few minutes earlier during the Mass, when the cathedral was full of worshipping Catholics, the casualties would be extremely high. Catholics felt that Muslim extremist elements must have planted the bomb.

Massacre at St. Dominic's Church, Bahawalpur

2001 (October 28): Four Muslim gunmen, shouting "Pakistan and Afghanistan, graveyard of Christians. Allah is Great. This is just the beginning," opened fire from automatic weapons on Sunday worshipping Christian men, women and children at St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Bahawalpur. This attack was intended to avenge the US missile strike on a Al Qaeda-Taliban terrorist training camp in Afghanistan on October 24, 2001. This strike had killed 35 members of Harkat-ul-Mujahedin including three British Muslims and several Pakistanis. Both Harkat-ul-Mujahedin and Jaish-e-Mohammad, based in Bahawalpur of Pakistan, are linked to Al Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden.

Six men arrived on motorcycles at around 9:00 a.m. during a Protestant (Church of Pakistan) prayer service in this Catholic Church. After killing a police guard and injuring another, four gunmen entered the church and closed the door behind them and the remaining two gunmen were outside the church guarding the entrance. The intruders first aimed at the pastor Rev. Emmanuel Masih (50) at the altar and killed him and then they indiscriminately fired at about 50 men, women and children -- killing 17, most of whom were women and children.

Catholic priest Father Rocus Tatrias ran into the church after the gunmen hurriedly left. He said: "There was blood all over the church, over the altar where people had tried to hide, bodies lying on the ground, people crying and screaming. The church walls were peppered with gunfire."

President Pervez Musharraf said that "the method used and the inhuman tactics employed clearly indicate the involvement of trained terrorist organization bent upon creating discord and disharmony in Pakistan."

The Punjab provincial government announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$ 891) for each person killed and 50,000 rupees for each person injured.

Catholic Bishop Andrew Francis of Lahore in an interview said: "My heart is broken; I feel very sad. The altar was perforated with bullet holes. There was blood everywhere. The killers fired at the faithful with a rain of bullets and the greater part of the bodies had six to eight bullet holes."

According to a later report, Pakistan police have arrested 13 Islamic militants in connection with the killing in St. Dominic's Church. These militants belong to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (active in the Punjab particularly in the persecution of the Shia Muslims), the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jamaat Ulema Islami -- the last one headed by a Taliban leader.

Police also killed Shakeel Anwar, alias Ghulam Mustafa, wanted for 150 acts of terrorism and 18 murders, was killed in a gun battle with the police in Bahawalpur. He was a militant belonging to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Shooting Inside the Protestant International Church, Islamabad

2002 (March 17): A Muslim extremist entered the Protestant International Church, located in the heavily protected diplomatic enclave in Islamabad between American and Russian embassasies, and threw grenades among about 70 foreign diplomatic staff gathered for the Sunday service. Out of six grenades, three exploded killing five persons and severely wounding 46. The attacker was able to enter and flee the church unchecked and unhindered.

Of the five persons killed, one was from Afghanistan, two from Pakistan and two from the USA. The wounded were from Afghanistan, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and USA.

One witness said: "The massacre resulted into a pool of blood in the church hall. Dead bodies and injured persons were found scattered all over the hall."

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