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81 dead from Pakistan church blasts,many injured

Jandullah group,a faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,claimed responsibility.

Written by Associated Press | Peshawar |
September 23, 2013 1:20:12 pm

A Pakistan police official says the death toll from a church bombing has risen to 81 as angry Christians protested the deadliest attack ever in Pakistan against members of their faith.

Police official Noor Khan says the death toll from Sunday’s bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar rose overnight to 81,after three more of the wounded died.

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a historic church in Peshawar on Sunday,killing 81 people in the attack against the Christian minority.

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A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing,raising new questions about the government’s push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end the decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands.

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The Jundullah arm of the Taliban said they would continue to target non-Muslims until the US stopped drone attacks in Pakistan’s remote tribal region.

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The attack on the All Saints Church,which wounded 141 people,occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn,said a top government administrator,Sahibzada Anees.

“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John,who was at the church in the city’s Kohati Gate district along with at least 400 other worshippers. “When I got my senses back,I found nothing but smoke,dust,blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.’’

Survivors wailed and hugged one another in the wake of the blasts. The white walls of the church,which first opened in the late 1800s,were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage. Blood stained the floor and the walls.

The attack was carried out by two suicide bombers who detonated their explosives almost simultaneously,said police officer Shafqat Malik.

The 81 dead included 34 women and seven children,said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Another 37 children were among the wounded,he said.

The number of casualties from the blasts was so high that the hospital ran short of caskets for the dead and beds for the wounded,said Mian Iftikhar Hussain,a former information minister of surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province who was on the scene.

“This is the deadliest attack against Christians in our country,’’ said Irfan Jamil,the bishop of the eastern city of Lahore.

One of the wounded,John Tariq,who lost his father in the attack,demanded of those behind the bombing: “What have we done wrong to these people? Why are we being killed?”

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