According to Al Jazeera, at least eight people have been killed in a suicide attack on a Methodist church in the city of Quetta in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
Provincial police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said that two men carried out the attack. One of the attackers blew himself up at the entrance gate to the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, whilst the other attacker opened up fire on worshippers. The gunman was subsequently wounded in a gun battle with Pakistani law enforcement officials.
Waseem Ahmed, an official at the local Civil Hospital, said that 33 people were wounded in the attack.
BBC reports that, according to local Urdu-language TV channels, security forces are conducting a search operation and have also surrounded the site of the attack.
Whilst attacks in the Sunni Muslim region usually target the Hazara Shia Muslim community in suicide bombings, Pakistan’s Christian minority also frequently suffer from such attacks.
According to the New York Times, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Even though ISIS has claimed responsibility for several other attacks in Baluchistan in recent years, Pakistani officials deny that the terrorist group has an organized presence in the country.
Shamaun Alfred Gill, a Christian political and social activist based in Islamabad, said that law enforcement agencies have failed badly in their duty to protect common citizens, especially members of minority groups.
Many Pakistani government officials have condemned the attack. The International Business Times reports that Pakistan’s Foreign Office reiterated that the country’s resolve against terrorism cannot be deterred by these cowardly acts.
According to the Financial Express, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan strongly condemned the attack and called upon the government to ensure special protection for churches as Christmas approaches. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa shared similar sentiments, calling the attack an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations and to create religious cleavages. Bajwa commended the law enforcement agencies’ effective response to the attack.